For survivors of abuse, emotional trauma can far outlast the physical harm. Even once a survivor leaves an abusive relationship, she may experience long-lasting mental and emotional symptoms. There is hope for these survivors, however. With proper medical and mental health interventions, she can overcome the emotional trauma.
Abuse and Trauma
Research tells us that about 20% of people who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) report experiencing new mental health disorders like major depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And they experience these life-altering mental health conditions after they escape the abuse. Many others develop these symptoms during the abuse and continue struggling with mental health long after leaving the relationship.
If 20% doesn’t seem like a high figure, you’re right. Unfortunately, survivors are often underdiagnosed. Survivors might have fewer options for medical care or financial barriers that prevent them from being diagnosed in the first place. And those who do seek professional help aren’t screened for common mental health disorders often enough. Therefore, we don’t have a clear and accurate picture of just how widespread mental health disorders are among domestic abuse survivors.
How Mental Health Impacts Physical Health
Correctly diagnosing and treating survivors’ mental health concerns not only impacts her psychological health. It affects her physical health as well.
There’s a clear link between emotional and psychological trauma and physical symptoms. Those who have experienced abuse are more likely to experience headaches and migraines, insomnia, chronic pain, hyperventilation, gastrointestinal symptoms, and pain in their chest, back, or pelvis. Again, those are symptoms that begin or continue after the abuse stops. The emotional and psychological trauma triggers physical reactions.
This connection between trauma and physical health problems is well-documented. Unresolved trauma can lead to severe health consequences and, ultimately, to a shortened lifespan.
If you’ve lived through abuse, you probably have some emotional scars. Mental health is an often overlooked part of the abuse cycle. But protecting and improving your mental health is perhaps the most critical part of your healing process.