PTSD from Domestic Abuse Affects About 10 Percent of Survivors

PTSD from domestic abuse and violence affects about 10% of current and former abuse victims. Could you have PTSD? Read this to find out.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from domestic abuse affects a great number of abused and previously abused women. Women, in general, develop PTSD more often than men in part because

… women are more likely to experience trauma within established relationships or their traumatic exposures are more chronic than those experienced by men (e.g. ongoing interpersonal violence within a marriage).1

Trauma that causes PTSD comes from any experience that leaves a lasting, negative effect that interrupts your life. PTSD can mess with your peace of mind even after you’ve left an abusive relationship (Long Term Verbal Abuse Symptoms).

Typically, symptoms of PTSD show within three months of a traumatic event. With domestic abuse, however, we can easily overlook the symptoms of PTSD. PTSD symptoms hide behind excuses like

  • “I’m over-emotional,” or
  • “I’m just jumpy,” or
  • “Stress is high at work”
  • “I’m not sleeping well, that’s all” and many others.

Sometimes PTSD symptoms stay hidden for years. Then the symptoms can explode when something similar triggers you to remember the abuse at a later time (Abuse Survivor Fights PTSD and Depression).

PTSD can form within an abusive relationship without the victim’s knowledge. It sneaks in under the radar because the cycle of abuse keeps victims tense and re-experiencing the trauma of the abuse daily. There’s no break in the cycle of abuse; therefore, a domestic abuse sufferer may notice no difference at all between the symptoms of PTSD and her day-to-day stress.3 Additionally, long-term domestic abuse sufferers can develop Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), described by as

…chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape…

Symptoms of PTSD from Domestic Abuse

The symptoms of PTSD 4 generally fall into three broad categories:

  1. avoidance and numbing
  2. increased anxiety or hyperarousal
  3. and intrusive memories

Avoidance and numbing includes:

  • difficulty remembering things
  • trouble concentrating
  • avoiding activities you once enjoyed
  • avoiding conversations about the distressing event(s)
  • problems maintaining close relationships
  • and feeling emotionally numb

Increased anxiety or hyperarousal includes:

  • feeling jumpy and easily scared
  • engaging in self-destructive behaviors (like cutting, eating disorders, and substance abuse)
  • seeing and/or hearing things that aren’t there
  • overwhelming guilt/shame
  • and trouble sleeping

Intrusive memories are memories that overwhelm you. You cannot stop replaying them in your mind. This could go on for hours or days, or disrupt your thoughts here and there. These memories can border on flashbacks, meaning they may cause you to feel the action is “right now” – not in the past. Intrusive memories also show up in nightmares and dreams.

Online Tests Check for PTSD from Domestic Abuse

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects abuse survivors and abuse victims more often than it affects military members. Check this list of PTSD symptoms.Only a doctor can accurately diagnose you with PTSD. However, there are online screenings that you can take. You can take the results to your doctor to open a conversation. When I took the test, I scored higher than I thought I would. It’s a shame if my abusive relationship with Will still affects me so deeply, but PTSD is one mental illness that will heal, with help (Hypnosis for Abuse Victims: Stop PTSD Auditory Flashbacks).

You can heal from PTSD, but you have to talk about your concerns first. Take an online PTSD test and see where you stand with the symptoms (try the PTSD Test at Most PTSD screenings do not differentiate between C-PTSD and PTSD. If the test you take refers to “the event,” consider that event as your entire abusive relationship. If you score high on the test, please talk to your doctor right away.

You can feel better! Abuse doesn’t have to affect you forever.


1 Research on Women, Trauma and PTSD, from (Title fact also from this page)

2 The Frog in Boiling Water, at

3 Diseases and Conditions: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from

Featured photo by Volkan Olmez

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About Kellie Jo Holly

Kellie Jo Holly passionately advocates against domestic violence through her writing and mentoring service. She loves helping women cope with abuse while in the relationship and supporting them as they leave the relationship and begin to heal. You can also find Kellie on Google+, Facebook and Twitter. You can buy her books from Amazon.


  1. willywagtail1 says:

    I am npot going back to resurrect it all just for this comment but I sincerely believe that PTSD is part of the outcomes from an emotional and sexually abusive relationship. I was never clinically diagnosed as such but way before I realised I was in such an article the symptoms resonated with me. Only in the last six months (seperated in 2004 but had ongoing stress from helping my teenagers/young adults through their traumas) have I been able to think of being in the same area as him without falling to pieces. Cherrie

    • willywagtail1 says:

      I tried the test but it continually refers to the event. What event? 19 years of my life event? Too hard to answer.

      • It’s been quite some time since you commented. In this time, I’ve learned that many long-term domestic abuse victims develop C-PTSD, or complex PTSD. I’ll edit the post to include information on C-PTSD. But to answer your question, yes – the simplified word ‘event’ refers to the duration of the abuse.

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