Updated: Aug 28
Domestic abuse is an act perpetrated by a person in the home against their partner. This can include physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. One of the most damaging impacts that domestic abuse has on victims is its impact on women's mental health. All victims of abusive relationships have to deal with its effects on their mental health and wellbeing, but in particular women are more susceptible due to mental health problems such as body image concerns, compromised eating patterns, depression, anxiety disorders and self-injury.
It’s well documented that violence against women and mental health has serious psychological consequences for both men and women who suffer from it or witness it, so it’s shocking that it’s often not considered as worthy of attention, as well as the lack of resources available to victims.
The impacts of domestic abuse are not always immediately evident to victims. They can be subtle and long lasting, causing devastating effects such as women's mental health depression and anxiety. The following are some of the more common consequences.
1. Depression: Depression is triggered by past traumatic experiences or fear, which can result in a feeling of hopelessness or helplessness. Victims of domestic abuse often experience long-term depression, which can severely affect their quality of life. It’s a debilitating condition that affects the way the person thinks and behaves, making it very difficult to function on a daily basis. Depression impacts negatively on all aspects of a person's life - their thoughts, feelings and behavior. Sufferers may have increased feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness.
2. Anxiety: Anxiety is a general term for any kind of excessive fear or worry that is out of proportion to the situation in which it occurs and where there is often no immediately obvious cause for such feelings. Victims of domestic abuse often have a range of different fears, which make it difficult to get on with their daily lives. These fears include fears of the partner, other people in the home and strangers. They may also experience an increase in feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and low self-esteem.
3. Body image: Many victims have issues with body image after experiencing domestic violence. This is because they assume that something is wrong with them, when in fact they have been abused by their partner or ex-partner and are not responsible for the abusive actions perpetrated against them. They may have been made to feel small, insignificant and worthless by their partner. This can lead to poor body image and compulsive eating disorders.
4. Self-harm: Self-harm is a serious issue that can cause considerable damage to an individual’s mental health, not just in the short term, but for the rest of their life. It involves inflicting physical harm on oneself as a way of coping with psychological distress and pain. The abuse or trauma suffered from domestic abuse can make it difficult for victims to cope with the trauma, which leads them to self-harm in order to alleviate their symptoms. Self-harm involves cutting or burning skin, pulling out hair or breaking bones and other forms of self-injury.
5. Alcohol and substance abuse: Drinking alcohol and using drugs can be seen as a way of self-medicating to deal with the pain and trauma experienced from domestic abuse. These behaviors can mask the painful emotions and feelings experienced by victims. These methods of coping only make it more difficult for victims to recover from the impact of their traumatic experiences.
6. Isolation: Having no one to turn to during the most traumatic times can make it difficult for women to recover from the impact of domestic abuse. It will often result in them isolating themselves from other people in their life with such thoughts as: “they wouldn't understand what I'm going through” or “I'm not strong enough for any help". This isolation can result in a victim feeling totally alone, which will make it even harder for them to recover from their experience.
7. Self-esteem: The consequences of domestic abuse can have a serious impact on a victim’s self-esteem, not only at the time of the abuse, but for years afterwards. This is because victims are put under pressure to act in a certain way or belittled verbally and emotionally by their partner. This often results in the victim questioning themselves and their own value as an individual.
8. Low energy levels: Domestic abuse can leave victims feeling extremely drained and depleted. This is because their abuser will often control their every move, and it also means that they will have spent a lot of time putting up with abusive behavior. There is a risk that victims can start to lose motivation for life in general, which can make it very difficult for them to get out of such an abusive relationship.
9. Lack of trust: Domestic abuse can cause victims to lose all faith in men, which can make it difficult for them to trust other men in the future. This can lead to many misconceptions about what men are like and the risks of being intimate with them. It’s also more difficult for women to trust other women because their abusive partner has made them feel like their lack of faith is justified, so they don’t want to give anyone else that power over them again.
Healing from impacts of domestic abuse on women’s mental health issues
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, this is a situation that has taken place in your life. It’s not something that you should put behind you and forget because it can develop into more serious issues in the future. There are a range of different things that victims can do to help themselves heal from their experience and move on with their lives, including:
1. Talking to someone: Talking about what has happened with a trusted friend, family member or therapist will often be of great benefit to victims. They will feel less isolated and can build up confidence as they learn ways to cope with the trauma they have experienced.
2. Finding support groups: Support groups can be looked at as a way of ‘ventilating’ their problems without fear of judgment, criticism or feeling shame. They can also receive support from others who are going through similar experiences and can build up the courage to move on with their lives.
3. Developing self-esteem: Victims will often feel worthless or ashamed about what has happened in their relationship because they were controlled, manipulated and abused by their partner. However, most abusive people have low self-esteem themselves and need to put other people down in order to bring them up to their level. This doesn’t mean that your self-esteem is low, rather it means that your abuser is low and you deserve the life that you want.
4. Developing coping skills: Coping with the trauma of abuse often requires a lot of hard work from victims. However, it can be done and there are a range of different ways to help them cope with their situation, including stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga (if they are open to this). It will also involve them becoming more aware of their own needs and ignoring the needs of others in order to move on with their lives.
5. Changing their environment: Changing their environment in terms of where they live, who they are with and what activities they are involved with can mean that there is less chance for an abusive person to manipulate or control them. They will also be able to surround themselves with people who have the same beliefs and values as them instead of being surrounded by someone who causes them pain.
6. Seeking help: Victims can be reluctant to seek help on the grounds that it may lead them back into the relationship or might not work out. But, opting mental health services such as trauma therapy is a good idea for such victims.
In conclusion, domestic abuse is a serious issue that has been highlighted by many different celebrities in recent times. There are many women out there who will never be able to speak about their experience and will suffer from mental health issues for the rest of their lives. However, there are ways to help support them if they want to tell someone about their situation by contacting their local Domestic Violence service.