Woman Abused by Partners Twice as Likely to Develop Depression

Posted on July 21st, 2013
Posted in Depression

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a term used to describe a range of harmful actions that occur between people currently or previously involved in a sexual or nonsexual relationship. Some forms of this violence involve physical acts, while others involve verbal, emotional or psychological acts. Women and men exposed to intimate partner violence have significantly increased chances of developing symptoms of some form of depression, according to the results of a study review published in 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE. In addition, women who already have depression symptoms appear to have increased risks for later exposure to intimate partner violence.

Intimate Partner Violence Basics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify four primary types of intimate partner violence: physical violence, sexual violence, threats to commit either physical or sexual violence, and emotional or psychological violence. Acts that qualify as physical IPV include punching, kicking, slapping, restraining, targeting with a weapon, choking, shoving, and biting. Acts that qualify as sexual IPV include forcing someone into any form of sexual conduct, having sex with someone who can’t give clear consent to the activity, and any form of sexually abusive touching.

Acts that qualify as IPV-related threats include both physical and verbal behaviors that indicate a willingness to cause harm. Acts that qualify as psychological or emotional IPV include purposeful humiliation or belittling, control of another person’s activities, social isolation of another person, and restriction of another person’s access to daily necessities such as money or transportation. A fifth type of intimate partner violence, stalking, can be viewed as a separate category or as a particular form of emotionally or psychologically violent behavior. Acts that qualify as stalking (at least in certain circumstances) include following someone, repeatedly calling or texting someone, and appearing without invitation at locations such as someone’s home or workplace.

Intimate partner violence impacts women considerably more frequently than it impacts men. The American Psychological Association reports that more than one-third of all US women have been victims of conduct such as stalking, physical violence or sexual violence at the hands of a significant other. By comparison, more than one-quarter of all US men have been exposed to these same behaviors. Pregnant women die from intimate partner violence more often than from any other cause. In addition, women make up fully 96 percent of all victims of murder-suicides committed within a relationship.

Links to Depression

In the study review published in PLOS ONE, a team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine examined the findings of 16 different studies in order to assess the connections between exposure to intimate partner violence and risks for depression, as well as the connections between IPV exposure and suicide attempts. After reviewing the available information, the authors of the review concluded that women with histories as victims of intimate partner violence develop symptoms of depression almost twice as often as women who don’t have such a history. They also concluded that men exposed to IPV experience a significant but smaller increase in their depression risks.

The authors of the review also note that the link between intimate partner violence and suicide apparently runs in both directions for women. In fact, women with depression go on to experience IPV at a later point in time almost twice as often as women unaffected by depression. Men do not share this reverse pattern. In addition, women exposed to intimate partner violence have increased chances of later attempting suicide, while men exposed to IPV do not.

In a report published in early 2013, the US Department of Health Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration reviewed the links between intimate partner violence and perinatal depression, a term used to describe depression symptoms that appear in women during pregnancy or the period directly following pregnancy. Specific forms of perinatal depression include prenatal depression, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis (apart from a normal and very common temporary condition called postpartum blues). The authors of the report identify the perinatal period as one of the most high-risk times for women in terms of their chances of experiencing some form of intimate partner violence. They also conclude that women exposed to IPV during the perinatal period have risks for developing depression that range from 150 to 200 percent above the risks found in other women.

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