Childhood Sexual Abuse – Preceding Hypersexualized Behavior
Hypersexual behavior is differentiated from paraphilia, or sexually deviant behavior, based on the criteria that the hypersexual behaviors still fall within socially normal sexual activities (Kafka, 2010). Paraphilia refers to activities that do not fall within a reasonably expected behavior, such as sexual interest in children or non-living entities (DSM-V, 2013). Both are defined as intense and frequent sexual behaviors that bring distress or other unintended negative consequences. This report looks at childhood sexual abuse, commonly referred as CSA, in terms of its impact and contribution to adverse behavioral development before the age of 18 years from three disciplines: social sciences, applied sciences, and a diversity component. For the purpose of this work, CSA is defined as any sexual-related activity between and adult and a child that meets the adult’s sexual needs (Yarber & Sayad, 2018).
The first discipline, social sciences, will examine this topic from the perspective of psychology. Sexual trauma in children is one of the most intriguing and commonly explored topics by psychologists, who present the more statistical and defined theories of those behaviors. This viewpoint will explore the psychological emotional effects of CSA that contributes to the hypersexual behavior as defined above. The second discipline, applied science, focuses on physiology and biology of the body by examining the physical impact of CSA trauma, as well as provides support for psychological findings. In an emotionally intense experience like sexual abuse, the trauma is often so intense that the human body’s psychological processing directly passes the emotional stage and initiates the physical reactions, which will vary in intensity based on the body’s relationship with the brain. And lastly, the diversity component will examine the relationship between CSA and its effect in the marginalized queer culture. Such childhood experiences often concern lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender (LGBTQ) individuals due to the likely discrimination already present in a hostile family environment. Their social experiences play a large part in their emotional and physical development, as well as their relationship to society. These disciplines together will guide this examination of one central focus for this work, which is hypersexualized behaviors are more common in persons who experience any form of sexual abuse in their childhood.
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Hypersexual Disorder (HD) was always loosely defined under umbrella disorders as a component labeled ‘other’ by psychologists. The disorders in which the definition of HD is derived are Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Paraphilia, as proposed by Martin P. Kafka; he is a member of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) workgroup on Gender and Identity Disorders (Kafka, 2010). The resulting definition goes as proposed, which is a repeated intense obsession with sexual fantasies, urges, and activities, resulting in detrimental effects and clinically considerable distress or deterioration of significant areas of functioning. A distinctive component is that the experiences also embody multiple tries to curb the amount of engagement in such sexual behaviors after emotionally significant experiences (Kafka, 2010).
From psychology’s perspective, what is the underlying cause of such hypersexual behavior? It was noted that activation of negative sexual-related memories serves as a trigger to hypersexual behaviors, including related dreams and desires (Paunovi? & Hallberg, 2014). The root of these triggers is supported by childhood experiences and premature exposure of sexual conduct. The impact left behind by CSA is quite distressing to the point where it overwhelms to the individual psychologically; fight or flight impulses become disrupted by memories left behind. Various coping mechanisms arise, including engagement in sexual behaviors as distraction tactic. It is also noted that the sexual misconduct could be an imprint behavior in their childhood development. This is explored by various learning models- behavioral, compensation, and physiological. The behavioral model suggests that a child who is the victim or observer of inappropriate sexual behaviors learns to imitate and the experience reinforces that activity later on (Paraphilias, 2018). When the individual with CSA feels uncomfortable with the distress of these actions, it is very easy for them to revert back to those imitated behaviors as a reflex. Next, the compensation models suggest impacted persons have impoverished social sexual contacts and therefore seek satisfaction through less socially acceptable means. Even though hypersexuality encompasses normal sexual behaviors, the intensity and frequency are the aspects that define it as less socially acceptable.
Through psychology’s viewpoint, the connection between hypersexual disorder and childhood sexual experience is the emotional mental trauma that reroutes basic impulses, and therefore distinguishing abnormal preferences that become distressing.
Physiology & Biology
The physiology and biology of the brain reveals a tremendous amount of information about what the body is experiencing during mental processing of emotions. Biologically, children who experienced severe sexual abuse were more likely to have elevated cortisol levels (Bellis, 2014). Cortisol is a steroid that is secreted during high stress levels and encompasses beneficial short-term effects. However, the cumulative impact of repeated cortisol reactivity and dysregulation under chronic stress can bring about negative consequences for the body (Stalder, et al., 2017).
Increasing severity of childhood trauma is also associated with dysregulation of the LHPA axis. LHPA is the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and coordinates input information from the brain structure. Decreased N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) concentrations are also associated with increased metabolism and loss of neurons. NAA is the second most prevalent compound in mammalian vertebrae and are found in neurons. Brain NAA levels lower when an individual has neuronal deficits, such as a stroke, (Bellis, 2014) or in this case the stressful violation of a child’s emotional innocence. These strong emotional responses can be tied to physiological consequences including the detrimental brain effects. Thus, childhood trauma and its adverse effects by disrupting the brain networks which establish an individual’s ability to think, and regulate their sense of self, motivations, and behaviors (Bellis, 2014). The disruption from trauma then leads to an irregular thinking pattern, which ties to those impulse control issues combined with the obtrusive sexual needs described by hypersexual disorder.
Queer Theory/ Studies
When brining into question the diversity of sexual trauma and its impact, LGBTQ individuals have a higher risk of developing hypersexual behaviors due to experiences of childhood sexual abuse compared to cisgender counterparts who were fortunately spared from the abuse. A study showed that the identified focus participants had a 43% to 48.5% increase in their potential of being sexually abused in the childhood (Xu Y., 2015). Children whose sexuality and gender are in question already are at a higher risk level for disorders because of parental expectations (Martinez & McDonald, 2017) that don’t support their true nature and fosters the creation of fear and stress. Not only are the parental figures highlighted as being an agent of victimization, but immediate family including siblings and extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles are noted to have an impact as well. The resulting fear and shame are there for a reason, because studies determined that victimization from family members, usually the parental figure of a child, is most likely to be physical (Martinez & McDonald, 2017).
In addition to the home life, American attitudes towards LGBTQ culture is still in transition away from being negative and unaccepting. This group is already marginalized out in society and having the same experience at home only further reinforces the idea that they are a minority because of their individuality.
Through the process of developing this report, I gained a deeper understanding of the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and the impact it brings to an individual’s later life, and especially its prevalence in minority groups. I was not surprised to find throughout my research that there is a heavier focus on suicidal disorders and PTSD in child sexual abuse studies, whereas I was surprised by how much risk CSA brings in terms of developing multiple disorders. I also found that the writing process pushed me to be extremely critical of the research I sorted through, because I was more aware of the criteria for evaluating effective data properties such as relevance, age, credibility, etc. It took a lot of patience to sort through the data and figure out how to effectively implement critical pieces. What I would do differently is perhaps some more preliminary research to narrow down the writing thesis and be more organized with my sources throughout the planning phase. Overall, the learning experience added value and understanding to my academic career.
In conclusion, a relationship between childhood sexual abuse and hypersexual behavior is defined. The biological responses support the emotional and behavioral discrepancies that occur post-maltreatment. To take one step further, factoring in the individual’s diversity relationship with the world can create even more emotional stimuli in such distressing situations. The disciplines are similar in the way that they examine some functioning of the human life; however, each one addresses a specific target. The first layer is the biology of the physical body, and then the layer of a psyche that allows for emotion and thought process. And finally, the external layer that interacts socially produces a combined effect of the first two layers. Understanding the impact of childhood sexual abuse is critical to developing remedies that will support these victims later in their lives.