Domestic abuse and mental health
Experiencing abuse from someone you love and trust can have an effect on many areas of a person’s life. Survivors of domestic abuse often face ongoing and challenging effects of that abuse, even when the danger has passed.
- Almost two-thirds of domestic abuse survivors experience PTSD symptoms
- 63% of survivors feel depressed or have suicidal thoughts, a 2019 Kent & Medway study found
- PTSD is experienced by 51% to 75% of women who are victims of Intimate Partner Violence (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
What are trauma responses?
It can help to remember that trauma responses are NORMAL responses to ABNORMAL situations.
Trauma responses include things like flashbacks, hyperarousal (being on high alert all the time), and emotional numbing.
Symptoms of trauma that we see are:
- Panic Attacks
- Angry Outbursts
- Hyper Vigilance
Symptoms of trauma we don’t see:
- Difficulty feeling connected to others
- Thoughts that no one can be trusted
- Thoughts that everyone will hurt you
- Thoughts that sharing your feelings will be used against you
- Believing you’ll never be safe
- Intense fear of loss
- Trouble focusing
- Negative changes in beliefs
- Shame and confusion
Survivors of domestic abuse can feel shame and confusion about the way they responded to an abusive incident, how it affected them, or for how long it affected them.
They may wonder why they didn’t fight back, change something leading up to the incident to prevent it, or try to escape or leave.
This is often compounded by a culture that is more comfortable blaming the victim than holding the perpetrator to account. But it is a choice to use coercion tactics, and it is never the fault of the victim.
“I felt embarrassed about what was happening. I blamed myself. I still feel immense shame, even though I know now that it wasn’t my fault”
If you’re experiencing trauma or abuse
If you’re worried about your mental health after suffering abuse you can make an appointment with your GP and speak about your concerns. Your GP will be able to perform basic screening and either make a referral to a mental health service or give you the details to self-refer.
If you want to talk to someone about your relationship, Kent and Medway Services are here for you:
In an emergency always call 999
For non-emergency support, call our helplines:
- Kent 0808 16 89 111
- Medway 0800 917 9948
Or use this website to find your local support service.