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How Domestic Violence Impacts Mental Health

Every minute, nearly 20 people become victims of physical abuse by an intimate partner in the United States. That means within one year, 10 million men and women will have experienced domestic violence.

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are not only frightening to live through, they can also be damaging to the psyche and lead to unanticipated mental health challenges. Whether long-term or short-term, these challenges can go unnoticed at first. Many victims dismiss initial symptoms as nothing more than a bad day or something they’ll work through on their own. But whether the abuse suffered was verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual, leaving trauma untreated can have profound effects.

Experts warn of the hidden threat COVID-19 has posed on domestic violence. The stress of sheltering in place, economic impacts, and being in close quarters have led to even greater vulnerability for those at risk. Valley Oaks’ Beyond the Violence program remains vigilant and checks on program participants to ensure their safety. Those who are victimized need help from counselors and communities now more than ever.

Mental health risks of domestic violence

It’s not always obvious to trauma survivors that their experiences affect their mental well-being. Symptoms can appear soon after or may not show until years later. 

Experiencing domestic violence can put victims at risk of developing some of the following mental health challenges:

  • Anxiety – Anxiety can interfere with everyday tasks such as attending school, going to work, or spending time with family and friends. 
  • Depression – As one of the most common mental health conditions, depression leaves a person feeling hopeless and empty. It can affect mood, eating habits, sleep patterns, and self-esteem.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Experiencing a traumatic event can make sufferers feel as though they could never go on living their everyday life. Whether a person witnesses war, a tragic accident, or survives abuse, PTSD can manifest in uncontrollable nightmares, flashbacks, or mood swings.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – People with BPD can have periods of extreme anger, depression, and anxiety that last for hours or days. They may also have a string of broken relationships or abandoned work, friends, plans, and goals.  
  • Substance abuse disorder – Narcotics and alcohol can feel like temporary fixes to lasting pain. But the misuse of drugs or alcohol does not treat the problem. Instead, they create more issues in the long run.

Ways to seek help

As soon as you are aware that something has shifted within yourself or your life to the degree that’s causing anxiety, anger, depression, or you find yourself coping with substances to quiet the pain, reach out for help. Valley Oaks offers counseling to help you process what you’ve been through.

If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, please get help and dial 911.

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