About 6 out of every 100 people, 6% of the United States population, will have PTSD at some point in their lives.1 PTSD resulting from domestic abuse is diagnosed in about 10% of domestic violence victims. Why so many? Domestic abuse is a trauma enacted by someone you’re told you can trust (the family unit is supposed to be safe). When someone you trust abuses you, it has a devastating effect on the way you feel, think, and act. That “devastating effect” is so harsh, you could develop a mental illness.
PTSD resulting from domestic abuse can result in adults and children, even if the children only witness the abuse. Make no mistake, PTSD resulting from domestic abuse shakes the core of your worldview, and healing from it can be difficult. But healing is not impossible.
To be diagnosed with PTSD resulting from domestic abuse or any other trauma, there is a series of criteria you must meet. But first, let’s define trauma as “a deeply disturbing emotional and/or mental experience” or, in the case of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), trauma can be “a physical injury”. To receive a PTSD diagnosis, you must have
- Directly experienced the traumatic event(s), or
- Witnessed, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others, or
- Learned that a traumatic event occurred to a close family member or friend, or
- Experienced repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event experienced in the ways described above (but this does not apply to exposure to trauma through television, movies, pictures, etc.)
Common Domestic Abuse Traumas Resulting in PTSD
- Experiencing any physical violence (including being blocked into a corner/room, hair-pulling, dragging).
- Unwanted sexual encounters (being married does not give your partner additional rights to your body)
- Hearing or seeing your partner threaten you or your children, parents, siblings, close friend, etc.
- Having important documentation hidden from you (your driver’s license, health insurance cards, birth certificate, or anything that makes it difficult to establish your identity or receive services).
- Being emotionally or verbally abused (learn the types of verbal abuse)
- Experiencing pervasive patterns of abuse including brainwashing, crazymaking, or any type of coercive control that manipulates your thinking, emotions, or beliefs.
- Retraumatization: Abuser reminds you of negative things that happened in your past (such as sexual assaults, horrible accidents, miscarriages, etc) in a way that is manipulative, not loving
Some Symptoms of PTSD Abuse Can Cause
There are many signs and symptoms of PTSD. The following are common signs of PTSD that result from domestic abuse:
- Jumpiness, nervousness, worry, and/or fear (specific or general)
- Pervasive anxiety that makes you avoid doing common activities (driving, eating, etc.)
- Trouble sleeping and/or waking up
- Feeling unable to trust anyone or that the world is a very bad place
If you’ve experienced abusive events or notice symptoms that could be a result of PTSD from domestic abuse, tell your doctor. If you must lie about your abuse, go ahead. The important thing is that you begin treatment for PTSD.