Domestic violence is one of the most prevalent social issues in the world. It contributes to several problems in society, lifestyle, physical health, family, children, and even mental health. In fact, domestic violence and depression are very closely linked together. According to statistics, 35-70% of women subjected to domestic violence are diagnosed with depression later in life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), About every 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner and report an IPV-related impact during their lifetime,
This article delves into detail about the link between domestic violence and depression, including its effects on mental and physical health, its various types, signs, and symptoms, and how to help someone who might be experiencing it.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic abuse is a destructive behavior pattern, characterized by a display of power and authority over an intimate partner through deliberate practice of violent conduct. This includes any kind of behavior that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.
Examples of domestic violence include:
- Insult and ridicule
- Yelling and swearing
- Financial abuse
- Exploiting male/female privilege
Effects of Domestic Violence
Family violence is a blanket term that includes all kinds of abusive behavior patterns that threaten the peaceful dynamic of a family. This includes domestic violence, child abuse, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and several other forms of abuse. According to many studies, family violence and mental health are strongly connected to one another. Witnessing or experiencing traumatic events like abuse and violence increases one’s likelihood of developing a psychological or physical illness in the long run.
On Mental and Physical Health
Violence is among the largest contributors to mental health disorders. About 20% of domestic violence survivors report experiencing a new onset of psychiatric disorders such as; depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a wide range of substance use disorders, and suicidal thoughts and suicide.
The purpose behind a perpetrator’s abusive actions, it seems, is their desire to assert authority by stripping the victim of their independence and self-esteem. In doing so, the victim begins to feel increasingly dependent on their abusive partner. Therefore, inadvertently seeking their approval and pleasure in all facets of their personal life.
The link between domestic violence and depression along with several behavioral changes such as; low self-esteem, lack of confidence, trust issues, the constant need for approval, shame, and guilt can develop into long-lasting issues, putting the victim’s health in jeopardy.
Moreover, intimate partner violence can lead to various acute and chronic physical issues. Immediate physical issues include; severe injury, cuts and bruises, unwanted pregnancy, broken bones, fatigue, sleep disorders, and eating disorders. In the long run, physical issues like cardiovascular diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, sexual dysfunction and fertility, and menstrual issues may also appear.
Domestic Violence and Depression
Witnessing and enduring abuse is a deeply traumatic experience that can scar its victims not only physically, but also psychologically. According to studies, people who have experienced traumatic events such as abuse and maltreatment are more susceptible to developing depression.
Intimate partner abuse can lead to serious mental, emotional and spiritual distress. The constant battering and insults can damage one’s confidence, throwing them into an endless pit of shame and guilt; of never feeling like they’re good enough for anything. This trauma can also impact a victim’s everyday life. It can bring about drastic changes in a person’s attitude such as; lack of motivation, absence from/poor performance at work and/or school, overwhelming fear and anxiety in otherwise non-stressful situations, and in critical cases, it can even lead to death.
According to reports, to cope with depression, victims are often reported to indulge in substance abuse and drug addiction. Approximately 35-70% of female victims of domestic abuse are diagnosed with depression.
Domestic violence and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Intimate partner violence can wound a person physically as well as emotionally. PTSD develops as a response to highly stressful and traumatic situations. If victims are exposed to long periods of extreme violence, they can develop post-traumatic stress disorder. According to reports, PTSD affects about 50-75% of female victims of Intimate partner violence.
If not dealt with promptly, PTSD can severely affect a victims’ life. One of the symptoms of PTSD includes re-experiencing the distressing ordeal again and again in nightmares, memories, and flashbacks, making it hard for the victims to move past their fears.
Studies suggest that the likelihood of developing PTSD — and the severity of symptoms of PTSD — as a result of domestic violence greatly depends upon the severity of violence endured by the victim.
Types of Domestic Violence
The general public commonly identifies intimate partner violence merely as physical and sexual abuse. However, that’s as far from the truth as can be. Domestic violence is of several types. According to the domestic violence statistics report by the CDC, the ones most prevalent in society are:
- Emotional or psychological abuse: This kind of abuse appears to be most prevalent yet the least identified. Nearly half of all women (48.4%) and half of all men (48.8%) in the United States have experienced at least one form of psychological aggression by an intimate partner.
- Sexual violence: In the United States, an estimated 19.3% of women and 1.7% of men have been raped during their lifetimes while an estimated 43.9% of women and 23.4% of men have experienced other forms of sexual violence during their lifetimes. More than half of the female victims reported being abused by intimate partners.
- Physical violence: More than 30% of women and 25.7% of men have reported being attacked physically. This includes behavior like shoving, pushing, slapping along with serious advances that have resulted in injury.
- Stalking: Approximately 16.2% of adult women and 5.2% of men in the United States have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime. Stalking victimization includes behavior that makes a victim fear for their safety without being physically or sexually harassed.
Signs of Domestic Violence in Perpetrators
As widespread as domestic violence is, it often goes unidentified. Perhaps, because some of these actions have somehow made their way into the list of behaviors that are not necessarily considered immoral. This is especially true for psychological abuse which frequently even evades the victim’s notice. One of the reasons it is essential to spread awareness about the issue of violence is because perpetrators habitually use manipulation as a key weapon to mask abuse as a concern to keep the victim under control.
If you’re unsure whether what you’re experiencing is indeed Intimate partner abuse, the following are some of the major signs of domestic violence to look out for in an intimate partner or spouse:
- They blame or threaten you and make you feel insignificant in their presence.
- They criticize your actions and beliefs.
- They yell or shout at you.
- They don’t trust you.
- They make you feel bad about doing things you enjoy doing.
- They keep you from seeing your friends and family.
- They keep you financially dependent on them. This is known as financial abuse.
- They physically assault you and try to harm you; this includes small acts of aggression like shoving, pushing, scratching, or pulling hair on top of seriously violent advances.
- They force you to have sexual intercourse.
- They refuse to employ birth control methods, nor do they let you get the same.
Signs that Someone You Know Might be Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
A majority of victims of domestic violence tend to stay with their abusers. A large number of cases of IPV are not even reported to authorities due to fear. Knowing and being able to identify exactly how a victim of domestic violence behaves may be beneficial knowledge in such cases. Not only can it help the victim get to safety, but it can also help prevent a lot of issues in society that occur due to domestic violence. Signs that someone is being abused include:
- Hiding and lying about how they got their bruises and injuries.
- An abrupt change in personality, such as; self-esteem, confidence, and trust issues.
- Absence from school or work for long periods with no valid excuse.
- Constantly worrying about how their partner may react to certain things.
- Wearing baggy clothes or wearing too much makeup to prevent their bruises from being seen.
What to Do if You Think Someone is Being Abused
Cases of domestic abuse often remain unreported and there are strong reasons why victims of domestic abuse choose to stay in abusive relationships instead of leaving. Mostly, it is because they’re aware of the extremes that their abusive partners could go to to get them back under their control while some choose to endure abuse for the sake of their children. Sometimes, victims stay because they simply cannot find the courage to get help on their own. In such cases, if one can identify the signs of abuse, a lot of damage can be prevented. If you think someone you know is being subjected to domestic violence, here are some ways you can help:
- If you suspect someone requires help, don’t wait around for them to ask you for it. Instead, find the right moment and speak to them.
- If you’re unsure if a person is being abused, pay attention to their body language for any signs of domestic violence.
- Gain their trust and let them know you’re there to help.
- Provide emotional support.
- With their permission, offer to report their case to the authorities on their behalf.
- Offer to arrange the necessary resources required for getting them out of their predicament.
- Devise a plan to follow during an emergency.
Lastly, if things go terribly wrong, always be prepared to contact your local domestic violence hotlines. If the victim’s life is in immediate danger, call 911.
Domestic violence is a common occurrence throughout the world and so is depression. Although it is reported among all genders, women are more likely to be affected by it. Luckily, there are several ways one can deal with, both, domestic violence and depression. However, after escaping, professional help may be required for the victims to get back to normal life and move past trauma.
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