Domestic Violence and Mental Health

Woman standing with her eyes closed looking sad

Dealing with the mental scars of abuse

Anna started seeing LifeWire’s Mental Health Therapist because she was experiencing symptoms of severe trauma. She felt numb and disoriented, had trouble focusing at work, and was having panic attacks.

Abuse, whether physical or psychological, can affect survivors’ mental health. People who experience trauma because of domestic violence are at significantly higher risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Survivors may also try to escape pain and depression with substance use or consider suicide.

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Abuse and PTSD

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’re turning our attention to one of the most common mental health issues affecting survivors of domestic abuse: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who have experienced (either directly or indirectly) a scary, shocking, or dangerous event. We often think about PTSD concerning combat veterans, but it’s also common among survivors of domestic violence and other forms of abuse.

Everyone experiences trauma in their own way. If two people experience the same traumatic event, one may develop PTSD and not the other. Any traumatic event can cause PTSD, whether it was an isolated incident like a sexual assault or long-term trauma like an abusive relationship. If you’re concerned you or someone you know may have developed PTSD, read on to learn more.

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Amira’s Story

Even though she’d left him, Amira’s abuser kept coming back. He forced and intimidated his way into the home that Amira shared with their five-year-old daughter Hana. He regularly followed her to work, harassing Amira in front of her customers and coworkers. Things became so bad, the 25-year-old Sudanese immigrant was forced to leave her job. Pregnant with her abuser’s child and unsure how to support two children on her own, Amira reached out to LifeWire.

Confident woman

With the help of her advocate, Amira connected with local resources to help meet her basic needs. She began meeting with a LifeWire mental health therapist, who helped Amira process some of the traumas she experienced after years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Amira worked with her advocate to create a safety plan, which included seeking a protection order. LifeWire’s legal advocate connected Amira with a pro bono attorney who helped her obtain a protection plan and set up a parenting plan.

Since Amira obtained her protection order, her abuser stopped contacting her. Instead of worrying about her safety, Amira now has time to raise Hana and her infant son Abdi. Amira is working hard on her long-term goals of raising healthy and safe children, having stable housing, returning to the workforce, and becoming a U.S. citizen.

Mental health therapy groups

Mental Health spelled out in Scrabble tiles

Mental health therapy can be key to helping a survivor heal from the emotional and often traumatizing effects of domestic violence. For many survivors, it is a crucial piece of recovery.

For many years, LifeWire has offered individual mental health therapy to survivors and their children as part of our advocacy services. And starting last year, LifeWire began to offer therapy groups in addition to individual support.

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