Domestic abuse can shatter your entire world. Managing relationships, taking care of your family, holding a job, enjoying life and completing simple daily tasks can all feel impossible if you’ve been the victim of domestic violence.

If you recognize signs of domestic struggle in your own life, it could be possible that the trauma you’ve experienced could warrant a diagnosis. PTSD from domestic violence is a condition in which the trauma of abuse has impacted life to the point where daily functionality is overwhelming. 

Intrusive thoughts, anxiety, flashbacks and feelings of dread can collectively make life a daily struggle. If you think you might be affected by PTSD from domestic violence, this article is for you. We’ll help you identify causes of PTSD, symptoms of PTSD after domestic abuse and how to reach out for help.

An overview of PTSD

According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition in which a person who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event and the manifestations of the memories are a disruption to successful functioning.

Two people may experience the same trauma and respond differently. While one person may be able to process and recover from a particular event, there are numerous factors that may make it more difficult for another person to heal.

Causes of PTSD

There are many potential stimuli to the onset of PTSD. While many people experience difficulties after single-instance events (like a natural disaster), PTSD also occurs when the trauma is repeated. Here are some causes of PTSD:

  • Natural disasters;
  • Shootings;
  • Serious accidents;
  • Death and/or suicide;
  • Combat;
  • Rape and/or sexual assault;
  • Domestic abuse;
  • Childbirth complications, such as the loss of a baby;
  • Torture;
  • A serious health problem;
  • Refugee experiences.

There is no simple equation to determine what events will cause trauma and how severe the manifestations are, but knowing the causes can help you to self-assess whether you might need services. Of course, the best assessment is always a professional one.

How abuse can cause PTSD

The development of any mental health condition is a complex process. There are many factors at play (such as age, genetics, resiliency factors and so on) that contribute to the onset and severity of PTSD. While we can know some risk factors, there is still a great need for research in regards to the causes of PTSD.

From what we know about brain science, the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are the primary parts of the brain that are responsible for stress response. According to the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, PTSD occurs when certain parts of the brain are over-activated and some are under-activated in response to stress

The amygdala, which is responsible for threat-assessment and emotional memories, is over-activated. The prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus are suppressed when a person has PTSD, meaning emotional stability, decision making and processing short-term memories into long-term ones.

According to the National Health Service, PTSD can be viewed as the brain’s attempt to protect you. So, while the brain science behind PTSD may seem confusing, it is a common biological response to extreme or enduring stress.

Symptoms of PTSD from domestic abuse

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are four categories of symptoms for PTSD that include intrusive memories, avoidance of things and places that trigger negative responses, changes in mood and changes in state of arousal reactions.

Just as each person’s experience is unique, these symptoms will manifest differently for everyone. Here is a general example of how symptoms of PTSD from domestic abuse may present:

  • Flashbacks of episodes of trauma;
  • Uncontrollable thoughts about the abuse;
  • Recurring nightmares about domestic violence;
  • Difficulty falling asleep due to fear of the abuse;
  • Feeling distressed when something in the environment triggers thoughts about the abuse;
  • Making efforts to avoid thinking about the trauma;
  • Avoiding places and things that could trigger these thoughts, such as taking alternate routes while driving or not wanting to pursue certain activities;
  • Avoiding certain topics of conversation;
  • Trying to avoid disagreements or conflict;
  • Changing your lifestyle to avoid potential causes for abuse;
  • Having difficulty maintaining relationships;
  • Feeling isolated, or choosing to isolate yourself;
  • Having trouble socializing with people you used to enjoy being around;
  • Having trouble participating in activities you used to enjoy;
  • Feeling hopeless, guilty or ashamed;
  • Having trouble empathizing with others;
  • Having trouble remembering details from a period of your life;
  • Feeling depressed;
  • Being easily startled or agitated;
  • Feeling like you need to act defensively;
  • Having trouble trusting others;
  • Inability to focus;
  • Self-destructive or suicidal behavior.

There is a wide range of symptoms of PTSD after abuse, so it’s important to talk to a medical or mental health professional if you feel you could be struggling with this condition. Your perspective as a victim of trauma may make it difficult for you to identify some of these ways it impacts you.

Treating PTSD from domestic violence

If you’ve been the victim of violence and your life has been drastically affected, it’s time to get help. High Focus Centers can walk with you every step of the way and will prioritize your safety and mental health. Get help today by scheduling your appointment or calling (877) 393-1650.