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The Silent Pandemic: How Domestic Violence Can Lead to PTSD


One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. For many of them, the physical and emotional scars will stay with them long after they leave the relationship. In fact, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women. Here's what you need to know about the connection between domestic violence and PTSD.


What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner in a relationship attempts to control and dominate the other through fear, intimidation, and power. This can include physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or spiritual abuse. Unfortunately, domestic violence is all too common; in the United States alone, more than 10 million women and men are victims of domestic violence each year.


How Does Domestic Violence Lead to PTSD?

When you experience something traumatic, it's normal to feel scared, confused, and helpless. But for some people, these feelings don't go away—and they can even get worse over time. This can lead to a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


PTSD can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a car accident, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or—in the case of women—domestic violence. Women who have been victims of domestic violence are three times more likely to suffer from PTSD than women who have not experienced this type of trauma.


What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

The symptoms of PTSD can be divided into three categories: avoidance symptoms, re-experiencing symptoms, and hyperarousal symptoms.


Avoidance symptoms involve trying to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma. For example, you may try to avoid places or people that remind you of the abuse. You may also try to numb yourself by drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Re-experiencing symptoms involves reliving the trauma repeatedly through flashbacks or nightmares. You may also have intrusive thoughts about the trauma.

Hyperarousal symptoms involve feeling on edge all the time. You may be easily startled or always be on the lookout for danger. You may also have difficulty sleeping and have angry outbursts.


If you're a woman who has experienced domestic violence, it's important to be aware that you may be at risk for developing PTSD. If you're experiencing any of the symptoms described above, please seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible. You don't have to suffer in silence; there is help available if you need it.


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