It’s easy to imagine how being a victim of domestic violence could lead to depression but you might not realize how serious a problem depression is for victims of domestic violence. One study of depressed women found that 55 percent reported that they had experienced domestic violence. Another study of both male and female patients in an inpatient psychiatric unit found that 63 percent had been victims of domestic violence.
Long-Term Effects of Domestic Violence
Long-term effects of domestic violence include depression, of course, and also include other related problems such as anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, substance abuse, sleep disorders, self-injury and suicide attempts. Victims may become irritable or withdrawn and may have feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and excessive guilt.
Depression may make it even more difficult than it otherwise would be for victims to leave their abusers. Depression makes it difficult for victims of domestic violence to care for themselves; they may not eat well, may not seek medical care when they are sick, etc. It also makes it difficult for them to parent their children, if they have any.
Treating Depression in Victims of Domestic Violence
According to the National Center on Domestic Violence, some victims of domestic violence do not need medical or psychological treatment for depression. Their depression resolves with increased safety and social support; they just need to get out of the abusive relationships and develop a good support system. Others do need treatment for depression or other mental health conditions, however.
To help ensure victims of domestic violence get treatment for depression when they need it, health care professionals should screen all victims of domestic violence for depression and offer treatment or make referrals to treatment when appropriate. People suffering from depression should be asked about a possible history of domestic violence and other forms of abuse so that those issues can be addressed in treatment when needed.
Victims of domestic violence may benefit from psychotherapy as well as antidepressant medication, just like anyone else that suffers from depression. Support groups are often useful as well, since increased social support has been proven so useful in the treatment of depression in victims of domestic violence.
If people are still involved in abusive relationships, however, they may find it difficult to seek treatment or to comply with treatment recommendations. While mental health care providers should never pressure victims of abuse to leave abusive relationships, they should provide support if victims wish to leave and offer referrals to services such as shelters.
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health. http://www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org/lib/File/Research%20Highlights.pdf . Domestic Violence, Mental Health and Trauma.
Find Counseling. http://www.findcounseling.com/journal/domestic-violence/domestic-violence-effects.html . Effects of Domestic Violence.