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PTSD Due to Domestic Violence

Updated on January 17, 2017

What Is Domestic Violence (or abuse)?

Domestic Violence goes by a couple different names that all mean the same thing. You may hear of domestic violence also being referred to as family violence, domestic abuse, family abuse, ect.

Domestic violence can be defined as any behavior that is used to gain power and/or control over ones partner. Such as their husband or wife, common law spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend or intimate partner.

Domestic violence can happen in any family. Rich or poor, heterosexual relationships or homosexual relationships, any race or religion, and to both men and women. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence. And unfortunately it is more common than we think.

Most often when people think of domestic violence they think of physical abuse. While physical abuse is certainly a type of domestic violence it is not the only form of domestic violence. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial, controlling behaviors and isolation.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by either experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Now we all are affected in some way or another when we witness or experience something terrifying. However, we don't all develop PTSD. Nor do we develop PTSD over every terrifying event in our lives.

Sometimes we even need a little help from someone else to help deal with and process what we have experienced before we continue on in our lives. In the case of PTSD the person is unable to cope with what they have experienced, their fear and anxiety may even get worse over time, and begins to interfere with their day to day lives.


Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Due To Domestic Violence

Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder due to domestic violence may include, but are not limited to;

  • Intrusive Memories- Recurrent memories of the traumatizing event may haunt the person experiencing PTSD. Flashbacks may happen bringing the person "back" to relive the traumatizing event/s. Dreams or nightmares may happen on a regular basis. Or the person may experience "triggers" that remind them of the event/s resulting in a severe distress reaction.
  • Physical Health Problems- Physical health problems (not directly related to the abuse) may arise. Someone who has dealt with domestic violence is more likely to develop physical health problems and a weakened immune system.
  • Avoidance- Avoiding anything that may cause more stress. Such as avoiding places, events, or even people that may remind you of the traumatic event. Most people who have experienced domestic violence want to avoid their abuser whether they have developed PTSD or not. However, if you find yourself avoiding his/her family and friends, places you have been together, ect because they remind you of a traumatic event. You may be experiencing PTSD.
  • Poor Coping Decisions- As a person struggles with PTSD they will attempt to find a way to cope with their feelings. This sometimes can lead people to choose poor coping mechanisms to try and deal with their PTSD. This may include the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Feeling And Thinking Negatively- PTSD can turn the happiest, most positive person into someone who suddenly see's no purpose in life and may even leave them feeling dead inside. Perhaps they feel hopeless about the future and may begin to close themselves off from the world. No longer enjoying the things that they used to and avoiding relationships with the people that they love.
  • Being Constantly Alert/On Guard- A person may become to feel preoccupied with the idea of staying safe and protecting themselves. Even when there is no risk. This may lead to many physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, upset stomach, changes in bowel movements and difficulty concentrating as they are in a constant state of high stress.
  • Emotional Changes- PTSD can cause someone to have sudden angry outbursts, irritability, feelings of guilt or shame and feelings of mistrust.
  • Sleep Problems- Nightmares may begin to occur or intensify. He or she may begin to have difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep.
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks- A person may feel in a constant state of anxiety or become anxious in certain situations related to the traumatic event. Panic attacks may also start to occur. They may occur when the person is reminded of the traumatic event or in other situations of high anxiety.
  • Suicidal Thoughts- The thoughts of taking ones own life may occur and if they do please seek immediate help.


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How To Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Due to Domestic Violence

The good news is is that you don't have to go through this alone and that there is help available to you. Here is a few treatment options for dealing with post traumatic stress disorder due to domestic violence.

  • Psychotherapy- This type of treatment is highly recommended and can be used along with other treatments. Although it will likely be painful at first to speak to a mental health professional about your domestic abuse experience. It does get better as time goes on. You will be assisted through the process of coping with your post traumatic stress disorder and your past experiences of abuse.
  • Antidepressants- Antidepressants not only help with depression but they are also very effective with helping deal with anxiety. Perhaps you just need something to help take the edge off so that you can enter counselling. Or maybe you need medications so that you can get your life back and start feeling like yourself again.
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications- These types of medications help with severe anxiety and panic attacks. These medications have the potential to become habit forming and therefore are not often used long term. And are only used in circumstances of extremely high anxiety and/or panic attacks.
  • Support Groups- Sometimes one on one support is not appealing to people and they would rather join a support group with others who have experienced similar situations. And that is O.K. too. A support group may also be used along side other treatments such as therapy and/or medications.

It does not matter what type of treatment you end up using. As long as it is the right treatment plan for you as an individual and you are receiving the help that need and deserve.

Where To Find Help

There are a few places online where you can also receive help from in regards to your post traumatic stress disorder due to domestic violence.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Domestic Abuse Services


PTSD Association of Canada



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