Survivors of domestic violence-related PTSD often live in fear, dis-empowerment, anxiety, and depression. Between constantly reliving the acute physical and psychological trauma they received and feeling shame for allowing themselves to become victims, domestic violence victims are vulnerable to a whole host of mental health issues, many of which can lead to substance abuse and eventual addiction.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with domestic violence-related PTSD, and have begun self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs, it’s important to take a holistic approach to heal the origins, triggers, and consequences of the problem to achieve balanced recovery and peace of mind.
PTSD, Mental Illness & Addiction: What’s the Connection?
There are volumes of research dedicated to illustrating the correlation between domestic violence-related PTSD. One comprehensive study from the University of Tennessee indicates that domestic female violence victims, who represent a clear majority of victims overall, experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a rate of 51 to 75 percent. Around 35 percent to 70 percent of these women experience depression; over 13 percent become addicted to alcohol and nearly 23 percent experience past-year illicit drug use to cope with their mental health issues.
There is a clear relationship between intimate-partner violence, mental health issues, and substance use disorder, but everyone’s journey is different. Even those who don’t turn to alcohol and other drugs need help to regain their peace of mind, mental health, and their overall quality of life.
It’s Not Your Fault: Dealing with Self-Blame and Guilt
As unthinkable as it may be, many domestic violence victims become convinced that they brought the abuse on themselves. Part of any effective domestic violence-related mental health treatment should be reinforced self-compassion and a therapeutic component to help mitigate self-blame. These types of therapies can also increase overall self-acceptance and worth. People often stay trapped in an abusive relationship because they feel they deserve the abuse, or they feel they’re tied to their abuser for safety reasons. Self-compassion not only offers validation, it also empowers domestic violence victims to take an active role in their recovery and their everyday lives.
You Don’t Have Anything To Be Ashamed Of: Addressing Shame & Stigma in Domestic Violence
An unfortunate reality of domestic violence is that so many cases go unreported. This is often because victims are too ashamed to admit that they’ve fallen victim to an abusive relationship dynamic, whether they’re currently living in it, or it’s part of their past. They don’t know where to go with these feelings of shame and often wind up committing self-harm or abusing alcohol or other drugs to dull the pain. Comprehensive domestic violence-related PTSD treatment must address these deep-rooted feelings of shame, exploring both how they played a role in the abuse itself, as well as the emotional aftermath that followed.
Helping domestic violence victims overcome substance use disorder goes way beyond withdrawal management and three weeks of rehab. These individuals are plagued by deep trauma, as well as emotional issues that may have predated the abuse they experienced. It’s also worth noting alcohol and drugs are involved in an overwhelming number of domestic violence cases, according to data from the World Health Organization, which means that domestic violence and PTSD-related addiction treatment should include behavioral coping mechanisms to help break the cycle of addiction and abuse, particularly for those who are already vulnerable to substance use disorder by virtue of their dysfunctional relationship.
Treatment for PTSD-related addiction should include medically supervised detox to address the immediate medical needs associated with prolonged and untreated substance use, along with group therapy, individualized counseling and supplemental behavioral therapies to address the root causes and sustaining factors of addiction.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that over eight million Americans struggle with co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness, such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety, and may be best served by dual-diagnosis treatment programs. These programs allow you or your loved one to simultaneously address your addiction and underlying trauma in one treatment setting for balanced mental health.
Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors