Psychiatric disorders are found at high rates in victims of domestic violence. Assessment and intervention strategies are needed for mediation of victim’s responses to traumatic events, and for a successful struggle against violence.
How does domestic violence impact victims’ mental health?
The most prevalent mental health disorders associated with domestic violence are depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Domestic violence has also been strongly associated with suicidal behavior, sleep and eating disorders and social dysfunction, exacerbation of psychotic symptoms and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
There is evidence to suggest that alcohol and drug abuse for some women is directly attributable to domestic abuse, as a manifestation of PTSD avoidant dynamics. Women experiencing domestic violence are up to six times more likely to misuse or develop dependency on alcohol and drugs.
How can mental health professionals help?
Women are more likely to disclose domestic violence to a health care professional than to the police (women are assaulted an average of 35 times before they report it to the police), but women may not disclose unless they are asked.
There are barriers, though, for mental health professionals to routinely ask about domestic violence. First being the medical diagnosis and treatment model that focuses on symptoms, and more importantly such routine inquiries are not effective if mental health professionals cannot provide necessary interventions or protective factors.
The most widely used interventions for domestic violence include access to refuges or shelters to escape abuse. However, some researchers observed that clinically structured psychological support or psychiatric services are not available in women’s shelters. There is a very important need for these institutions helping women who are victims of violence to organize psychological support and treatment services.
Louise M. Howard, Kylee Trevillion, & Roxane Agnew-Davies. 2010. “Domestic violence and mental health.” In International Review of Psychiatry, 22(5): 525–534.
Senem Akyazi, Abdulkadir Tabo, Hulya Guveli, Mehmet Cem İlnem, Serap Oflaz. 2018. “Domestic Violence Victims in Shelters: What Do We Know About Their Mental Health?” In Community Mental Health Journal, 54: 361–369.