My last blog, I stated about my numb, disconnected state.
The overwhelming info I have processed recently about the deeper impact of childhood sexual abuse, has put me into a kind of shock state.
HYPO-AROUSAL AND SHUTTING DOWN BY VICTIMS
Some adult sexual abuse survivors report a period of withdrawal and shutting down from the world where they lose energy, collapse, and may want to sleep or hide. This reaction is a sign of trauma and relates to how the ANS evokes a survival method of being in a “freeze” state in an effort (often unsuccessful) of anticipating and escaping the terror of possible opportunities of further sexual abuse. In this reaction the victim may also dissociate or “split-off” to accentuate the withdrawal process from the world and from possible further abuse (Ogden:2008). Hypo-arousal was found in trauma studies by Lanius, as noted by Ogden(2008), to occur in about one third of the abuse victims.
Hypo-arousal can cause losses in memory, motor weakness in the body, paralysis, numbness of feelings and sensations, confusion states, and deficits in attention(Ogden:2008). Victims often report a sense of separation from their body, no sensation in parts of their body, and an appearance of passivity.
This approach can leave the person unable to mount a defence if required and can be maladapted to their environment as its leaves them as easy prey to any person around them. This reaction, just like the hyper-vigilant reaction both are triggered by the heightened state of body senses which get triggered and then act to switch the child’s Autonomic Nervous System(ANS) into either of these modes or states. Both states are recognized symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome(PTSD), and both can co-exist and activate independently depending on what triggers the victim.
In life these people may “freeze” and act like victims as their whole system goes into a form of shock and their attention orientation to the outside world recedes and pulls back into a protective state, much like a snail receding back into its shell.