Mental health & domestic violence

A new study published in the journal PLoS showed that both men and women may be more likely to experience domestic violence if they have mental health disorders.

Investigators from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, in collaboration with the University of Bristol found that females with depressive disorders are around two and a half times more likely to have experienced domestic violence than those without mental health issues.

Using data from 41 studies around the world to collate their findings, the results showed women with anxiety disorders have a three-and-a-half times greater risk of such experiences and those with post-traumatic stress disorder are around seven times more likely to be involved in this behaviour.

It was also found that men with mental health disorders are at increased risk of domestic violence, as are women with other conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Professor Louise Howard from the Institute of Psychiatry at the learning institute said: “Domestic violence can often lead to victims developing mental health problems and people with mental health problems are more likely to experience domestic violence.”

Dr Victoria Tischler, a Chartered Pyschologist from the University of Nottingham, comments:
“Mental health problems make individuals vulnerable to poor levels of social support and difficulties in social interactions therefore experiences of domestic violence and being subject to violence more widely is not uncommon.
“In my research with women experiencing homelessness, three-quarters of whom had mental health problems, most had been subject to domestic violence with other types of violence, for example from neighbours. Concerningly, many of these individuals had experienced abuse in childhood as well and had dependent children who had witnessed recent domestic abuse.
“This suggests an ongoing pattern of dysfunctional relationships in some vulnerable groups which requires urgent intervention. In particular we should provide additional support to those experiencing mental health problems and promote positive social relationships, for example through educational problems, befriending and mentoring, to enhance social inclusion and break the cycle of abuse.”

Types of domestic violence
Domestic violence can take many forms, from physical to emotional:
• Criticism/verbal abuse – shouting, name calling, verbal threats, criticising, mocking.
• Pressure – removing communication devices, taking the children without informing, lying to others, making threats.
• Harassment –constant checking where the victim is and who they are with, following/stalking.
• Threats – violent threats, intimidating, brandishing a weapon, carrying out violence on inanimate objects.
• Physical – punching, kicking, pushing, burning, slapping etc.
• Sexual – using force, rape, degrading marks about sexuality.
• Breaking trust – lying, withholding information, breaking promises, lying to others.

Treatment for domestic abuse
Domestic violence can be very difficult to recover from. The victim may have issues learning to trust again, be dealing with post-traumatic stress, flashbacks, nightmares, or feel they are constantly living in fear. It is very common that the victim may experience long-term stress or anxiety issues. Depending on the nature and severity of the abuse, the victim may also need to recover from physical injuries.
Counselling is an important tool for the victim to help overcome the trauma, recover and rebuild their life. It provides a safe environment where the victim can work through their issues, helping to get their life back on track and be able to move on.
Therapy can also be helpful for abusers. If someone is able to recognise that their behaviour is becoming unacceptable, counselling can help them to find were the emotion is coming from, and help change their behaviour.

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