Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as “a mental health disorder that some people develop after they experience or see a traumatic event.” Typically, many people think of PTSD as being caused by life-threatening natural disasters or active combat.
But in fact, PTSD can result from any experience that your brain perceives as threatening or traumatic, and that includes trauma from domestic violence (whether physical or emotional abuse). Research has shown that anywhere from 31%-84% of domestic violence survivors will develop PTSD.
Recognizing the Symptoms of PTSD
Like any mental health condition, PTSD will look different for everyone. For many people, symptoms of PTSD may not arise until well after the trauma (or the abusive relationship) has ended.
If you or someone you know has experienced abuse, it’s a good idea to be aware and vigilant of the signs of PTSD after domestic violence. These might include:
- ● Depression and/or anxiety
- ● Withdrawal, detachment, and/or loss of interest in hobbies or activities
- ● Mood swings, outbursts, or changes in behavior or personality
- ● Feelings of guilt, shame, or self-hatred
- ● Negative thoughts or feelings about other people or the world
- ● Memory problems, particularly around traumatic events
- ● Flashbacks to traumatic events
- ● Avoiding situations, thoughts, or feelings that are reminders of traumatic events
- ● Difficulty sleeping
- ● Feeling tense or on edge, or being easily startled
Dealing With PTSD
PTSD is a serious condition, and if left untreated, it can cause or exacerbate other mental health problems. Fortunately, people are extremely resilient, and healing from trauma is possible. Psychotherapy, mindfulness, support groups, psychotropic medications, and other treatments can be effective in mitigating or even eliminating the effects of PTSD.
At Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC), we believe that everyone has a right to a life free of violence. Our mission to end domestic violence is rooted in education, service, and advocacy. In addition to working toward broader social change, we provide empowerment-based and trauma-informed support in the form of shelter, counseling, and advocacy to individuals affected by domestic violence and their children. If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, don’t hesitate to call our 24-hour hotline at (773) 278-4566. To support our work, consider volunteering or donating.