Domestic Violence Awareness Month & Mental Health Day

October 13, 2017

October 11 is National Mental Health Awareness day, which happens to fall during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Due to this fact, it is important for us to understand the double stigma that affects women and men of all races, ages, genders and sexual orientation. Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), doesn’t always involve sexual or physical abuse as there are many different forms of it such as psychological/emotional abuse and economic abuse. All these situations can include unwanted attention like stalking or harassment (CDC). Domestic violence is a major cause of mental illness in the United States and across the world (Campbell et al.,2006). In domestic violence cases, psychological effects such as depression and PTSD are influenced by severity, duration and type of abuse.

An adverse effect of domestic violence is the increase in the occurrence of clinical depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD (Anderson et al., 2003). In an article written about the co-occurrence of intimate partner violence + mental health diagnosis, it is shown that compared to women who have not experienced domestic violence, survivors have nearly doubled the risk for developing depressive symptoms. Survivors are three times more likely to develop major depressive disorder, while mothers who experience domestic violence are nearly twice as likely to develop postpartum depression (Beydoun et al., 2012;Cerulli et al., 2011). One study suggests that experiencing multiple forms of abuse can increase the odds for PTSD, depression and suicidality by 6-17 times (Houry et al., 2006).

Statistics from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey of 2010 show that 80% of women who experience rape, stalking or physical violence by an intimate partner had reported short-or-long term effects including PTSD. Women who have experienced domestic violence are three times as likely to meet the criteria for PTSD as those who had no kind of experience with domestic violence (Bonomi et al., 2009).In addition to PTSD and depression, evidence suggests that experiencing domestic violence increases the likelihood of developing other mental health conditions such as suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, anxiety/mood disorders, and substance abuse (Bundock et al., 2013;Ellsberg et al., 2008; Scheffer & Renck, 2008).

Not only does domestic violence affect the two partners directly involved, it affects the children who witness the abuse and fighting.  Children tend to have poorer health when exposed to domestic violence which is linked to telomere shortening in their brains. Telomeres are at the tip of the chromosomes that hold DNA in their strands and are crucial in affecting how people age and get cancer. Domestic violence can increase the risk of mental health disorders in children that affect them well into adulthood. Issues with substance abuse, depression, anxiety and suicide are found also as a result of minimal family support, lack of parental involvement and isolation (Drury et al., 2014).

The stigma attached to being a victim of domestic violence is often enough to prevent one from reporting or calling the police.When one ties in factors of self-doubt and feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame, victims are plagued with questions such as, “Will anyone believe me?” “Why is this happening to me?” Victims tend to identify with statements like, “It’s my fault, I was asking for it when I bothered him/her”, after months and/or years with their abuser. As a society, we are becoming more aware due to the increased vocality of those affected but it is important to start talking about domestic violence and mental health to completely remove the stigma behind both of these issues.

Works Cited

  1. Violence Prevention. (2017, August 22). Retrieved October 13, 2017, from CDC
  2. Campbell, J, Laughon K, Woods A. (eds G Roberts, K Hegarty & G Feder). (2006).  Impact of intimate partner abuse on physical and mental health: how does it present in clinical practice? In Intimate Partner Abuse and Health Professionals: New Approaches to Domestic Violence. 43-60.
  3. Anderson DK, Saunders DG, Yoshihama M, Bybeem DI, Sullivan CM. (2003). Long-term trends in depression among women separated from abusive partners. Violence Against Women. 9:807–838.
  4. Beydoun, H.A., Beydoun, M.A., Kaufman, J.S., Lo, B, Zonderman, A.B. (2012). Intimate partner violence against adult women and its association with major depressive disorder, depressive symptoms and postpartum depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 75(6), 959-975.
  5. Cerulli, C., Talbot, N.L., Tang, W., Chaudron, L.H. (2011). Co-occurring intimate partner violence and mental health diagnoses in perinatal women. Journal of Women’s Health, 20(12), 1797- 1803.
  6. Houry, D., Kemball, R., Rhodes, K.V., Kaslow, N.J. (2006). Intimate partner violence and mental health symptoms in African American female ED patients. American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 24(4), 444-450.
  7. Bonomi, A.E., Anderson, M.L., Reid, R.J., Rivara, F.P., Carrell, D., Thompson, R.S. (2009). Medical and psychosocial diagnoses in women with a history of intimate partner violence. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(18), 1692-1697
  8. Bundock, L., Howard, L.M., Trevillion, K., Malcolm, E., Feder, G., Oram, S. (2013). Prevalence & risk of experiences of intimate partner violence among people with eating disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47(9), 1134-1142.
  9. Ellsberg, M., Jansen, H.A., Heise, L., Watts, C.H., Garcia-Moreno C; WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women Study Team. (2008). Intimate partner violence and women’s physical and mental health in the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence: An observational study. Lancet, 371(9619), 1165-1172.
  10. Scheffer Lindgren M, Renck B,J.(2008).’It is still so deep-seated, the fear’: psychological stress reactions as consequences of intimate partner violence. Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs Apr, 15(3),219-28.
  11. Drury,Stacy S, Emily Mabile, Zoë H. Brett, Kyle Esteves, Edward Jones, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Katherine P. Theall.(2014)The Association of Telomere Length With Family Violence and Disruption, Pediatrics 134 (1) e128-e137.