Friday, December 30, 1994

Common Symptoms of Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

© (1994) Victoria Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC and Gail Roy, MA, ATR, LCPC
  1. Low self-esteem, feeling worthless.
  2. Fear of abandonment and other abandonment issues.
  3. Acting out behavior. Not knowing how to identify, process and or express intense feelings in more productive ways.
  4. Unexplained fears of being alone at night, nightmares and/or night terrors. . .
  5. Feeling overly grateful/appreciative from small favors by others.
  6. Boundary issues: lack of, needing to be in control, power issues, fear of losing control...
  7. Eating disorders including: anorexia, bulimia, compulsive over-eating etc...
  8. Headaches, arthritis and/or joint pain, gynecological disorders, stomach aches and other somatic symptomology.
  9. Unexplained anxiety/panic, when with individuals from childhood.
  10. Extreme guilt/shame.
  11. Obsessive/compulsive behaviors (not necessarily Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder).
  12. History of being involved in emotionally, psychological and/or physically violent relationships(emotionally, physically).
  13. Memories of domestic violence in childhood.
  14. Sexual acting out, "sexaholism", history of prostitution, performing in porn films...
  15. Distorted body image/poor body image.
  16. Hypervigilance.
  17. History of ambivalent or intensely conflicted relationships.
  18. Depersonalization. Feeling oneself to be unreal and everyone else to be real (or vice versa).
  19. Blocking out periods of one's life (usually ages 1-12) or a specific person or place.
  20. History of multi-victimizations in other forms.
  21. Extremely high or low risk taking.
  22. Obsession with suicide at various times of the year or after triggering events.
  23. Wearing layers of clothing, even in the summer - caused by body image issues.
  24. Intense anxiety and/or avoidance of gynecological exams.
  25. Unexplained fears of suffocation.

Friday, April 8, 1994

Common Coping Mechanisms Used by Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

© (1994) Victoria Polin, MA, LCPC, ATR-BC, NCC and Gail Roy, MA, ATR, LCPC

Important Reminder: When reviewing this list it is important to remember that the information provided should not be used as the soul determiner of childhood sexual abuse. This list only provides the reader with a list of some common Coping Mechanisms that are used by many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It is also important to remember that coping mechanisms are learned behavioral patterns used to cope. They are not necessarily all "good" or "bad". Many individuals have used their abuse learned coping mechanisms to benefit them professionally and in other personal situations.

1. Minimizing abuse history/herstory and actions of offender(s).

2. Rationalization of one's victimization. "Oh, he/she just didn't know any better. He/She was also abused as a child".

3. Denial is more comfortable for both a child and adult survivor to pretend the abuse never occurred, than face the emotional/psychological pain of the violation.

4. Repression/Forgetting. One's body's way of denying victimization

5. Splitting. Seeing the world in terms of black and white (no shades of gray). Common in survivors when the behavior of the offender was either abusive or loving (no middle).

6. Lack of Integration. On the inside feeling you are bad/evil. On the outside being a super achiever. Developing a "false self". 

7. Out of body experience(s) during the abuse. Feeling that one watched the abuse occurring to one's body. 

8. Control Issues. The more chaotic family life in childhood, the stronger control issues are an issue.

9. Dissociation/Spacing Out. Everyone does this at times; the difference is degree and frequency. Example of normal dissociation: Driving a car and realizing you are farther along then you believed.

10. Hyper awareness/Super alert. Awareness of everyone and everything around you.

11. Workaholism/Business. Staying busy is one way of avoiding feelings.

12. Escape/Running away. Passive ways include reading books, sleeping and watching television. It's important to remember fantasies can be the source of a rich creative life and can be vital to healing.

13. Psychiatric Hospitalizations. Can be used as a respite from intense feelings and/or flashbacks.

14. Self - Mutilation/Self-Harm/Self-Injury. Internalization of offender. Instead of being hurt by victimizer, survivor hurts one's self. Often releases intense feelings and/or numbness after mutilation occurs.

15. Suicide Attempts. Often occurs when survivors feels trapped with no way out. "Don't kill yourself, call a friend, your therapist or a crisis hot-line instead!"

16. Isolation. Feeling safer when alone ("No one can hurt me if I'm alone").

17. Addictions are common ways of coping with the pain of sexual abuse. They are usually self - defeating and self - destructive (drugs, food, gambling, sex . . . ).

18. Lying. When children are told not to tell anyone, the offenders are teaching children to lie. Many survivors are compulsive liars, the abuse being the biggest of them all.

19. Religion. Safety can be found attaching one's self to a belief system that has clear boundaries and rules. Traditional religion can provide an anchor. The lure of divine forgiveness can be a powerful pull for the survivor who still feels the abuse was his/her fault. Unfortunately, destructive cults can also be alluring to an adult survivor for some of the same reasons.

20. Avoiding Intimacy. Seeming open and friendly on the surface but hiding real feelings inside. "Avoiding intimacy keeps one safe - and sometimes leads to positive traits such as independence and autonomy-- it also means missing out on the rewards healthy relationships can bring." (E. Bass & L. Davis, 1988).

21. Manipulation. Adult survivors, who are diagnosed as having a Borderline Personality often are told they are being manipulative. Once they are able to identify, process and express feelings attached to manipulative behavior and taught other ways of getting needs met, the manipulation will usually cease.


  • Bass, Ellen & Laura Davis. The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
  • Chutis, Laurieann. Flashbacks. Chicago, IL. Ravenswood Hospital & Medical Center, Dept. of Consultation and Education.
  • Davis, Laura. Allies In Healing: When The Person Your Love Was Sexually Abused As A Child. New York: Harper, 1991.
  • Gil, Eliana. Outgrowing the Pain: A Book For And about Adults Abused As Children. New York: Dell Publishing, 1983.
  • Ideran, Mary. Adult Survivors Signs & Symptoms Checklist The Changing Women in Calumet City.
  • Lew, Mike. Victims No Longer: Men Recovering From Incest & Other Sexual Child Abuse. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.
  • Napier, Nancy J. Getting Through The Day: Strategies for Adults Hurt as Children. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.

Tuesday, February 1, 1994

Glossary of Initials and Other Professional Degrees, Organiazations & Other Jargon

(© 1994, Rev. 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003) By Vicki Polin ,MA, ATR, LCPC

A.A.T.A American Art Therapy Association
A.B.A. American Bar Association
A.B.E.C.S.W. American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work.
A.C.E.P. Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology
A.C.S.W. Academy of Certified Social Worker
ADTA American Dance Therapy Association
A.D.T.R. Academy of Dance Therapist Registered
A.M.A. American Medical Association
A.M.H.C.A. American Mental Health Counselors Associaton
A.P.A. American Psychological Association
A.P.A. American Psychiatric Association
A.S.A. Assistant States Attorney (can be in either Juvenile and/or Criminal Court)
A.T.R. Art Therapist Registered
A.T.R.-B.C. Art Therapist Registered - Board Certified.
AYA American Yoga Association
B.A. Bachelor of Arts Degree
B.C.D. Board Certified Diplomat (given by ABECSW to social workers)
B.S. Bachelor of Science
B.S.N. Bachelor of Science in Nursing
B.S.W. Bachelors Degree in Social Work
C.A.C. Certified Addictions Counselor
C.A.D.C. Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor
CCGC Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor
C.E.T. Certified Expressive Therapist
C.R.C. Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
C.E.U. Continuing Education Units
C.M.T. Certified Massage Therapist.
DASA Department of Alcohol and Substance Abused (Illinois)
D.C. Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine
D.C.F.S. Dept. of Children and Family Services (Illinois)
D.C.P. Department of Child Protection
D.C.S.W. Diplomate in Clinical Social Work. (Given to Social Workers by the NASW..)
D.D. Dually DSMIV Diagnosis and/or Developmentally Delayed and/or Chemically Dependent
D. Ed. Doctorate in Education
Det. Detective
Dipl. Ac. Diplomat of Acupuncture
Dipl. Hom. Diplomat of Homeopathic Medicine
D.N. Doctor of Napraprathy  or
Doctor of Naturopathy
D.O. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
D.P.M. Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
Dr. Doctor (can refer to an DSW, M.D., PhD, PsyD . . . ).
D.S.M.–IV Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
D.S.W. Doctorate in Social Work
DTR Dance Therapist Registered
Dx Diagnosis
FICPP Fellow International College of Prescribing Psychologists
G.A.L. Guardian Ad Litem. In Illinois, all children who are wards of the state are appointed a G.A.L. by Public Guardian's office. In some counties is the child's attorney in both juvenile and criminal court.
H.L.M. Honorable Life Member (given to art therapist's by AATA).
Hx History
IAAP Illinois Association of Addiction Professionals
I.A.T.A. Illinois Art Therapy Association.
IAODAPCA Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association
I.C.A.S.A. Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
I.C.A.D.V. Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
ISSD The International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders
I.T.P. Individual Treatment Plan
JCASA Jewish Coalition Against Childhood Sexual Abuse
J.D Juris Doctor (degree given to an Attorney).
L.A.N. Local Area Network (Community Mental Health Centers boundaries for funding).
L.C.P.C. Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (in Illinois, Master Degreed Mental Health Provider.). Can accept most insurance for payment.
L.C.S.W. Licensed Clinical Social Worker. (in Illinois, Master Degreed Mental Health Provider.). Can accept most insurance for payment.
L.C.S.W Licensed Certified Social Worker (in Maryland, Master Degreed Mental Health Provide). Can accept most insurance for payment.
L.C.S.W-C Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (in Maryland, Master Degreed Mental Health Provide). Can accept most insurance for payment.
L.D. Licensed Dietitian.
L.L.M. License of Law (requies a Masters Degree in Law).
L.M.H.C. Licensed Mental Health Counselor (Requires Masters Degreed)
L.M.F.T. Licensed Marriage, Family & Child Counselor.
L.P.C. Licensed Professional Counselor (in Illinois, Bachelor Degree Provider).
L.P.N. Licensed Practical Nurse
L.P.H.A. Licensed Practitioner of the Healing Arts
L.S.W. Licensed Social Worker
M.A. Masters of Arts (can be in any field)
M.A.A.T Masters of Arts in Art Therapy (From some programs).
M.C.A.S.A. Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault
M.Ed Masters of Education.
M.F.C.C. Marriage, Family and Child Counselor.
M.D. Medical Doctor
MDiv. Masters of Divinity.
MHC Mental Health Center
MI Mental Illness/Mentally Ill.
MISA Mentally Ill/Substance Abuse.
MPH Masters of Public Health.
MS Masters of Science (can be in any field).
MSN Masters of Science in Nursing.
MSW Masters degree in Social Work.
M.S.S.W. Master's of Science in Social Work.
NAADAC National Association of Addiction Professionals
NADT National Association For Drama Therapy
N.A.S.W National Association of Social Workers.
NBCC National Board of Certified Counselors
OTR Occupational Therapist Registered.
PA Public Aid.
PAS Pre-Admission Screening for nursing home and/or residential treatment. Needed for individuals on Medicaid (State of Illinois)
PD Police Department.
PDR Physicians' Desk Reference (book describing medication).
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (can be in any field, i.e. psychology, social work, chemistry...)
PsyD Doctorate of Psychology.
RA Ritual Abuse
RD Registered Dietitian
R.D.T. Registered Drama Therapist (by the National Association For Drama Therapy).
RN Registered Nurse.
Rx Prescription/Prescribed
QMHP Qualified Mental Health Professional (Master Degreed Level Professional).
QMRP Qualified Mental Retardation Professional (Master Degreed Professional).
SASS Screening, Assessment & Support Services. (Needed for individuals on Medicaid in the state of Illinois prior to being admitted to a psychiatric unit or facility.
SSA Social Security Administration
SSDI Social Security Disability Income
SSI Social Security Income
Tx Treatment Prescribed Treatment