Domestic Violence and Mental Health

Is there a link between domestic violence and a person’s mental health condition?  How could a person who is mentally stable dare inflict physical, mental, emotional or any other form of pain into the lives of people they are suppose to love, care for and protect?  The clinical term psychotic means in simplified terms: mind abnormalities.  The abnormalities might be 1.  Behavioral  2.  Medical  3.  Cognitive. Abnormalities most commonly are first detected by observation and interaction by others who notice the individuals response to daily life is not in line with the average individual.  Such responses might be described as being “over the top”.

How would a person know what to observe when interacting with people who might have at some stage in life been victims of domestic violence that is having an impact on ones ability to function?  The following information might by helpful.   Depressed mood most of the day, lack of interest or pleasure in most activities, need to numb out, substance abuse, insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleep), agitation, intense anger or urges to explode violently, restlessness, inability to think or concentrate, abnormal irritability or excessive speech, significant highs and lows in emotional states, intense anger or feelings of wanting to hurt others or self, racing thoughts, obsessions or preoccupations, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, feeling like everyone is against you, detachment from self and others, fear of a shortened future, recurrent recollections of a traumatic event, preoccupations with past and/or future, preoccupations with revenge, feelings of being inadequate or less important than others, or an inability to function at home, work and in relationships.

Recently I ran across findings by Dr. Carole Warshaw, MD and Holly Barnes, MA  of The Domestic Violence and Mental Health Initiative in Chicago, Il., published in April, 2003 which verify my position.

Although domestic violence causes considerable emotional pain, many battered
women do not develop mental health conditions and data indicate that
symptoms, particularly of depression, may resolve when social support and
safety increase (Campbell, Sullivan and Davidson, 1995; Tan et al, 1995).
For other women, however, being abused over a long period of time may
eventually result in significant mental distress. For example, in a study with a
large sample of randomly selected women, 48% of those who had been battered
(n = 207) reported they had “wanted help with mental health in the past 12
months” (Weinbaum et al, 2001). In general, studies on domestic violence and
mental health are designed to measure particular constellations of symptoms
that meet criteria for psychiatric diagnoses, rather than the psychological impact
of experiencing abuse and betrayal by an intimate partner or the developmental
influence of prolonged exposure to abuse by a caretaker in childhood. Even
diagnoses that specifically address traumatic events do not fully capture what
living in a climate of fear does to a woman’s psychological landscape or what a
woman has to do to reconfigure her sense of identity, her belief in herself, her
connections to others, and her relationship to a world that has betrayed her.
However, currently available data indicate that women who are being abused by
a partner are at increased risk for developing certain mental health problems
such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Across studies of
US and Canadian women receiving services for domestic violence, rates of
depression ranged from 17% to 72%, and rates of PTSD ranged from 33% to 88%
(see table below). Prevalence rates vary widely depending on a number of
factors, such as the mental health assessment tool used, the number of women in
the study, and the timing of the assessment (e.g. during a crisis, after a woman is
safe). Meta-analysis across multiple samples of battered women, including those
in settings other than domestic violence agencies (e.g., hospital emergency
rooms, psychiatric settings), showed a weighted mean prevalence of 48% for
depression and 64% for PTSD (Golding, 1999).
Substance abuse, somatoform disorders, eating disorders, sexual difficulties and
psychotic episodes have also been linked to adult and childhood abuse (Briere et
al, 1997; Bryer et al, 1987; Danielson et al, 1998; Jaffe et al, 1986; Kilpatrick et al,
1988; McCauley et al, 1995; Moeller & Bachmann, 1993; Poirier, 2000). Partner
abuse is a significant risk factor for suicidality as well (Plichta & Weisman, 1995;
Stark, Flitcraft, & Frazier, 1979).

For the complete report by Dr. Warshaw Project Director visit:

Have you or anyone you know been victimized by domestic violence?  How are you coping personally or how would you suggest the people you know seek help to regain control of their lives?


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