5 crucial steps to NOT let childhood abuse affect mental health

The connection between early childhood abuse and mental distress is severe. Here are some expert steps to follow if you’re suffering.
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Is it fair that some people have to suffer abuse at the hands of bullies or psychopaths? Christopher Hitchens once asked, “To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation—is that good for the world?” Dave Pelzer’s words, “Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul,” seem to be a beautiful reminder of what life should actually be like.

Adults often struggle and feel ashamed to admit the childhood issues that still impact their brain. It is probably one of the leading causes of mental disorders in the US and is now reaching all other parts of the world as well. So, what should one do when the demons of their past haunt them?

“Our childhood often serves as the ‘background’ on which we paint our future goals and aspirations. So any form of emotional, physical, sexual or verbal abuse in childhood can have a lasting impact on a person’s mental framework,” Dr Kedar Tilwe, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai says, adding, “It can often lead to low self-esteem and decreased confidence as well as impairing their ability to establish trust and form long-lasting fruitful relationships. Childhood abuse can also make one vulnerable to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or personality disorders.”

Dr Tilwe suggests a few ways to not let childhood abuse affect your mental health:

You are not alone

Realise that you are never alone. All of us have a support system of family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances who can be understanding and non-judgmental. But every so often you may have to be the person who chooses to trust them and enlist their support.

Cultivate a hobby

Actively try to develop resilience and coping skills. Cultivating a hobby or going for yoga, meditation, exercise classes could be a good beginning.  

Channelize your anger

Learn to channelise any anger or resentment you may feel towards building something that would be socially acceptable or spreading awareness about the cause.

Accept and move on

It’s not your fault. Acceptance is one of the most important steps in building your resilience and moving on. So the feelings of guilt and shame are often underserved and need to be dealt with.

Seek professional help

It’s advisable to reach out to a mental health professional near you to aid you in this process.

The sooner you address the trauma, it will help you break the cycle of childhood misfortunes. Remember the quote by David Rossi’s character in Criminal Minds: “Scars remind us of where we’ve been, they don’t have to dictate where we’re going.”

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