Domestic violence can cause serious mental health issues, like hypervigilance, which is a symptom of PTSD. If you or someone you care about is suffering from domestic violence, don’t wait to get help. The effects of domestic violence can have serious long-term consequences.
Types of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a traumatizing ordeal that comes in many forms. There are five different types of domestic violence currently recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice:
- Physical abuse — any form of physical violence or unwanted touching, as well as denying medical care or forcing drugs and alcohol on the victim
- Sexual abuse — coercive sexual behavior or unwanted sexual contact, including marital rape, forced sexual acts or demeaning sexual behavior
- Emotional abuse — using criticism, manipulation, name-calling or third parties (such as children, friends or relatives) to weaken the victim’s self-esteem or self-worth
- Economic abuse — making the victim financially dependent (such as by withholding access to funds or forbidding employment) on the abuser in order to maintain control over the victim
- Psychological abuse — using fear, intimidation, threats to the victim or loved ones, forced isolation and other tactics to cause psychological damage to the victim
Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence suffer multiple forms of abuse. Most people expect their romantic partner to be trustworthy. However, when an intimate partner becomes violent and physically, sexually or emotionally abusive, that trust is shattered. Individuals who have been the victim of domestic violence often suffer from:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by trauma. The traumatic event may be a one-time occurrence or may be ongoing, as is often the case in domestic violence. PTSD causes the victim to have recurrent memories or thoughts of the trauma, recurrent dreams depicting various aspects of the trauma and dissociative symptoms such as flashbacks or a feeling that they are outside of their body. Another major symptom of PTSD is hypervigilance, which occurs when a person is always on the lookout for the next threat or traumatic event. This sense of impending doom and heightened anticipation wreak havoc on an individual’s emotional and mental health. PTSD is extremely common in victims of domestic violence and can lead to long-term problems in mood, thinking and functioning.
Intimate partner violence causes a person to feel uncertain and unsafe. Many people who suffer at the hands of an intimate partner develop anxiety in response to the tumultuous environment their partner has created. Many people worry constantly about when the next attack is going to come. Even the smallest detail such as a slightly overcooked meal or not responding correctly to a question can trigger a violent outburst, which causes victims to suffer from anxiety.
Due to repeated violence, degradation and emotional abuse, many victims of domestic violence suffer from depression. Major depression is a condition in which a person feels helpless, hopeless, fatigued and sad most days of the week. This is extremely common in victims of domestic abuse who feel trapped in their situation and cannot see a way out.
Many victims of domestic violence turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the pain and stress of their situation. This can often lead to alcohol dependence and subsequent health problems. In some cases, an abuser may force the victim to ingest harmful drugs or alcohol as a way to gain control over them. Domestic violence is a crime that is often hard to recognize. If you or someone you care about is suffering from domestic violence, there is help available. It starts by recognizing the signs and acknowledging the reality of the situation. You deserve to be treated with respect. Start by respecting yourself and getting help. Sources: American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Violence Against Women. U.S. Department of Justice. (2016). Domestic Violence.