Understanding the Root Causes of PTSD from Domestic Abuse

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Understanding the Root Causes of PTSD from Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse is a grave problem affecting millions of people worldwide, and its effects can linger on long after the Abuse has ended. One of the most devastating consequences of domestic abuse is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that affects people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as domestic abuse. In this blog post, we will delve into the root causes of PTSD that result from domestic abuse.

Physical and Sexual Abuse: Domestic violence can often result in physical and sexual abuse, leading to lasting trauma. Victims who experience these types of Abuse often feel powerless, helpless, and violated, leading to symptoms of PTSD such as depression, anxiety, and flashbacks.

Emotional Trauma: Domestic Abuse can also manifest in emotional and psychological ways, such as verbal Abuse, gaslighting, and manipulation. These forms of Abuse can lead to feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and shame, which can exacerbate symptoms of PTSD. Emotional trauma can be as damaging as physical trauma and may even be more challenging to heal.

Control and Isolation: In many cases of domestic abuse, the abuser exerts control over their victim by isolating them from friends and family, controlling their movements, and limiting their access to resources or financial independence. This type of control can be incredibly traumatizing, as victims may feel trapped and unable to escape their situation.

Intergenerational Trauma: Domestic abuse can also have intergenerational effects, meaning that trauma can be passed down from one generation to another. Children who witness or experience the Abuse of a parent or caregiver may develop symptoms of PTSD later in life as they attempt to cope with the trauma they have experienced.

Lack of Support: One of the most critical factors contributing to PTSD from domestic abuse is the lack of support that victims receive. Victims of domestic violence are often shamed, blamed, or disbelieved by their communities, which can compound the trauma they have experienced and make it more difficult to heal.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that can majorly impact a person’s life. It’s typically brought on by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, and domestic abuse is one such trauma that can trigger PTSD or C-PTSD. Sadly, domestic Abuse is all too common, with millions of people affected annually in the UK alone. While official reports suggest that around 1.2 million women and 700,000 men experience domestic abuse annually, this figure is likely much higher, as many people may feel too scared or ashamed to come forward. We must acknowledge the prevalence of domestic Abuse and its potential long-term effects on survivors. By raising awareness and providing support, we can help to reduce the impact of PTSD and other mental health issues associated with trauma.

Domestic abuse is a complex issue that can take many forms, and it is critical to understand its manifestations. Defined as a pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading, and violent behavior, domestic abuse can involve emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse and physical violence. Sadly, this Abuse often occurs at the hands of a partner, former partner, family member, or caregiver, making it exceedingly challenging for vulnerable individuals to escape. It’s important to note that Abuse is not always physical and can take many other forms, such as intimidation, isolation, and financial control. Understanding the complexity of domestic abuse is one of the many steps we can take to help prevent it and support survivors.

Domestic Abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation, and power with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence): Coercive power involves several tactics; these often include frightening behaviors meant to cause distress and limit one’s ability to make independent decisions. These behaviors may range from intimidation, such as bullying and verbal humiliation, to attempts at isolation–shielding an individual from other connections or reaching out for help–or even the use or threat of violence, either physical or sexual. Through this pattern of Abuse, controlling individuals can challenge another person’s fundamental rights and create a disturbing environment that fails to reflect respect for safety & autonomy.
  • Psychological and emotional Abuse: Psychological and emotional Abuse can be devastating, and it can involve demeaning behavior, manipulation, and damage to a person’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Unexplained outbursts of anger, name-calling, frequent criticism, and isolating victims from family or friends are all tactics used in psychological and emotional Abuse. Even though some of these behaviors may not leave physical scars, the long-term effects of this type of maltreatment can cost a victim dearly – both psychologically and socially. Victims need support to build their resilience even as they end their relationship with the abuser. Knowledge is power; understanding the dynamics involved in emotional Abuse is the first step in developing supportive environments for those who experience this form of maltreatment.
  • Physical or sexual Abuse: Physical Abuse can leave scars but can also hurt emotionally and mentally. It can be as subtle as patterns of irritability or refusal to follow requests by an adult, or blatant, like hitting, shoving, and use of weapons. Sexual Abuse is an oppressive reality for more than one in four girls and one in six boys before adulthood. This form of Abuse includes incest, rape by a nonfamily member, acquaintance rape, statutory rape of minors below the age of consent, and other unwanted contacts or explicit suggestions to extort a minor’s body.
  • Financial or economic Abuse: Financial Abuse can be a severe issue affecting people of all ages and demographics. This type of Abuse includes methods such as manipulating finances to maintain control or preventing someone’s access to their money. Economic Abuse could consist of refusing to allow access to cash, requiring approval for every purchase, denying the right of one partner to participate in budgeting household financial decisions, and even sabotaging job prospects by bad-mouthing them when they are looking for work. Sometimes, it also involves indebting one partner to gain leverage or exact repayment of excessive debt. We must understand the seriousness of this matter and look out for the signs in everyday occurrences or conversations with our loved ones. People deserve the foundational air conditioner of independence, choice, and equitable financial self-sufficiency.
  • Harassment and stalking: Harassment and stalking can have long-lasting emotional, physical, and psychological effects on their victims. All too often, these crimes are ignored or minimized by those suffering from the Abuse. No one should ever be made to feel unsafe or intimidated in a public or private place. Unfortunately, many experience harassment and stalking because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, identity, or background. The issues should be taken seriously and punishable by law. In some areas, it is illegal for someone to follow you when you don’t want them to. Victims of such behavior should seek justice in the court system if need be so that other people don’t have to live in fear of something they can’t control. Everyone must learn the importance of respect for each other and treat each other with dignity, no matter who they are.
  • Online or digital Abuse: Online and digital Abuse are quickly becoming a prominent form of bullying and aggression. These intimidation tactics use the internet or technologies as a leading platform to target victims. In recent years, more malicious forms of digital Abuse have emerged through anonymous defamation, cyberstalking, and revenge porn. It’s essential to be aware of the impact that this can have, even after the person is no longer exposing others online, as damaging content can be shared beyond individual accounts. Legal assistance might be something that individuals faced with online or digital Abuse should consider ensuring that they talk or take action against an offender; this could help provide a layer of protection for victims in these situations.


kansas city psychiatrist - Understanding the Root Causes of PTSD from Domestic Abuse

These are forms of domestic abuse and criminal offenses.

Understanding the difference between Domestic abuse and Intimate Partner Violence is essential. Domestic abuse can occur between two household members: a parent and child, siblings, or roommates. On the other hand, Intimate Partner Violence can only occur between romantic partners who may or may not be living together in the same household. It encompasses physical, sexual, and psychological maltreatment. By understanding these definitions, we can better recognize and address instances of Abuse in our communities and work to create safer environments for everyone.

How can domestic Abuse cause PTSD?

Traumatic events like domestic abuse can evoke complex emotions, including shame and confusion. It’s not uncommon for victims to question their responses to the trauma. Why didn’t they fight back or attempt to flee? The answer lies in the workings of our brain’s defense mechanisms. When faced with a perceived threat, our “fight/flight/freeze/flop/fawn” trauma response is activated, leaving little room for logic or reasoning. It’s important to understand that this is a natural and uncontrollable response to trauma, not a reflection of strength or weakness. It’s essential to seek support and understanding from loved ones and professionals to process and heal from such experiences. So, being aware of trauma responses and understanding their causes can help victims overcome confusion and shame and take a step toward healing.

For those who have experienced Abuse by a controlling and violent partner, seeking safety is only the beginning. The impact of trauma can linger long after the physical danger has passed. Unprocessed trauma can take many forms and wreak havoc on a person’s daily functioning, leading to symptoms of PTSD or C-PTSD. Such symptoms might include anxiety, difficulty managing emotions, and decreased ability to trust others. The recovery process is often long and requires patience, understanding, and the support of friends, family, and mental health professionals. Though the journey may be difficult, it is essential to recognize that healing is possible and that each person’s path to recovery is unique.

Experiencing Abuse can be a traumatic event that overwhelms an individual with fear. This fear may only intensify in cases of domestic abuse, where the perpetrator remains in the survivor’s life for a prolonged period. For some survivors, this fear may lead to PTSD or C-PTSD. Statistics show that many domestic abuse survivors experience these disorders, which can affect their mental health. Although the road to recovery can be difficult, survivors need to seek help and support to heal and overcome the trauma they have endured.

  • Almost two-thirds of domestic abuse survivors experience PTSD
  • PTSD is experienced by 51% to 75% of women who are victims of IPV (compared to an average of 10.4% of women in the general population).
  • In one study, 20% of men who reported sustaining physical IPV had moderate-to-severe PTSD symptoms.

Domestic abuse’ witnesses’

It’s no surprise that domestic abuse can have a profound impact on its victims, but what about those who witness it? Particularly when it comes to children, exposure to Abuse between their parents or caregivers can be devastating. A recent study found that approximately 30% of youth living with two parents experience domestic violence yearly in the US. This high exposure rate to violence in the home is considered one of the most common and severe adverse events during childhood. While much of the information and statistics on domestic abuse and PTSD occurrence focuses on partner-to-partner Abuse, it’s vital that we also consider the impact of this violence on innocent bystanders and work to provide support and resources for children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence.

Experiencing inter-parental violence can be traumatic for children, leading to long-lasting effects. While some children may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not all do. Reports show that 13-50% of youth who have experienced violence in their homes develop PTSD. Studies also reveal that 13% of children in a sample of those exposed to partner aggression within their community met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. These statistics clearly indicate that domestic violence’s effects on children can be severe and long-lasting. Educating families and communities about the impact of violence on children is crucial in preventing and mitigating the devastating effects of inter-parental violence.

Domestic Abuse can happen at any age.

Domestic abuse is an issue that affects people of all ages. Unfortunately, it’s often assumed that domestic abuse only happens to younger people. However, as the statistics show, older people are just as likely to be victims of domestic abuse. In 2019, over 280,000 people aged 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales. Even more alarming is the fact that one in five victims of domestic homicides was over the age of 60. Despite these disturbing numbers, surveys and studies about domestic abuse often exclude victims aged 60 plus. As reported by Age UK, the data regarding older victims of domestic abuse is alarming and should not be ignored. We must broaden our understanding of domestic abuse to include all age groups so that we can work towards ensuring safety for everyone regardless of their age.

  • According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, about 189,350 older women and 91,137 older men experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2019
  • The majority of victims are female (68%); whereas perpetrators are predominantly male (85%)
  • Older people are almost equally as likely to be killed by a partner/spouse (46%) as they are by their (adult) children or grandchildren (44%)

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to push boundaries and exhibit signs of healthy anger as they navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. However, parents and caregivers must distinguish between this expected behavior and any form of violence or threats. Adolescent-to-parent violence and Abuse (APVA) is a severe issue defined by the government as any behavior that seeks to control or dominate parents with intimidation and fear. Unfortunately, recent evidence suggests that APVA is on the rise, with Met Police reporting a 95% increase in child-to-parent violent offenses from 2012 to 2016. Parents and caregivers must work to address and prevent APVA to ensure the safety and well-being of themselves and their families.

What should I do if I think I may be suffering from PTSD?

Taking the first step to help yourself can be incredibly daunting, especially when dealing with mental health. However, it’s essential to understand that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. While it may take time for treatment to work, you can get better and lead a happy, fulfilling life. The first step is to reach out to your GP and have an open and honest conversation about your concerns. Your GP can provide essential screening and offer options for further support, whether a referral to a mental health service or details on how to self-refer. Remember, you don’t have to face your struggles alone; help is always available.

PTSD from domestic abuse is a severe mental health concern affecting millions worldwide. By understanding the root causes of this trauma, we can better support victims and work to prevent domestic violence from happening in the first place. If you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, know that help is available and that you do not have to suffer alone. It is never too late to seek help and begin the healing process.

Contact us today at 816.708.0508 or schedule your appointment online.

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