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PTSD and Domestic Violence: Treating the Invisible Wounds

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — June 12, 2019 — 2 min read
Domestic violence, also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is aggression or violence that occurs within a close relationship such as the relationship with a spouse or dating partner. Intimate partner violence may involve physical assault, sexual violence, stalking and other forms of intimidation.

An estimated 8.5 million women in the United States and over 4 million men have reported experiencing physical violence, rape or stalking from an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the CDC.

Intimate partner violence may have a long-term impact on the emotional and physical well-being of victims and those who witness the violence; and it has the potential to lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), again for both victims and witnesses. Life-threatening events and the experience of extreme fear associated with those events can cause many behavioral responses including poor sleep, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbing, and trouble concentrating. 

Intimate partner violence that occurs within a relationship over an extended period of time is often understood as a problem that occurs in a cycle with periods of increased tension, violence, and calm.  This cycle can also repeat through generations if not addressed. 

Once the victim of intimate violence is safe, there are supports and therapies to help reduce fear-related symptoms. Self-care, trauma-informed therapies, and other supports can be very helpful in the healing process. Support groups can be another option. This form of therapy often involves groups of four to 12 people with similar issues. Talking through your experience with others who have been through something similar can help resolve your feelings and make you feel like you’re not alone. Mental Health America has compiled a list of support groups and hotlines here

PTSD can affect the family members of the person who has PTSD, causing stress, anger, depression, resentment and feelings of isolation. If PTSD is affecting your family, it may be time to seek family or couples counseling in addition to therapy for the individual with PTSD. 

If you or a family member needs help, call the Cardinal Innovations Access Line at 1-800-939-5911. This line operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.     

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Psychologist Dawn O’Malley contributed to this article.
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