Domestic Violence May Lead to Future Mental Health Struggles

Posted on October 2nd, 2013

Domestic Violence May Lead to Future Mental Health StrugglesMental illness can be made more painful because of the attenuating circumstances that go along with it. For example, people with a mental health disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol in order to self-soothe or escape from the pain of their condition. That choice sometimes leads to other unfortunate consequences. Untangling all the pain and heartache is a tricky business. A couple of recent reviews of existing studies draw a clear line between mental health disorders and the likelihood that a person will also experience domestic partner violence.

Both studies were conducted in England and both were actually reviews of compilations of prior studies. The first study review was performed at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The review represented findings from over 36,000 study participants in research relating to violence from an intimate/domestic partner. This study focused on the high degree of connection between partner violence and depression. The study concluded that violence from an intimate partner left women almost two times more likely to face depression in future.

The flip side of the coin was also true; depressed women were nearly twice as likely to experience later violence. Why the link, which goes in both directions, between depression and partner violence is so strong is unclear, though it has been suggested that perhaps depressed women subconsciously choose partners prone to violence. One thing is clear, health professionals treating depression should be on the lookout for domestic violence and those intervening in partner violence should take steps to reduce the risk of depression.

The second study took place at the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry and looked at the same problem but did not limit itself to examining depression, but all forms of mental health disorders linked to partner violence. The investigation looked through 41 previous studies and was part of a larger five-year study on domestic violence.

This research found that all forms of mental illness increase the risk of experiencing violence form a domestic partner. Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, were seven times more likely to be victims of such violence. Women with anxiety disorders were three times more likely and women with depression more than twice as likely to suffer intimate partner abuse. Women with eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder all faced a higher risk than non-affected women.

In the United Kingdom, nearly 30 percent of women and 17 percent of men experience partner violence in any given year. For women, violence occurs more often (it is repeated) and is more severe compared to men. The two studies paint a clear picture of partner violence and mental health struggles as two sides of a single coin. Those who experience violence are at an increased risk for mental health problems and those with mental health problems face a higher than normal risk of domestic violence.

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