Tracy Guy

The Psychological Impact of Long-term Domestic Violence

Tracy Guy
March 4, 2024

Long-term domestic violence inflicts profound psychological wounds that can persist long after the physical abuse ends. The psychological impact of enduring abuse within an intimate relationship is complex and multifaceted, affecting survivors in various ways. Here are some of the key psychological effects of long-term domestic violence:

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Survivors of long-term domestic violence often experience symptoms of PTSD, including intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance. The trauma of ongoing abuse can lead to a state of chronic stress, anxiety, and fear, causing survivors to feel constantly on edge and emotionally overwhelmed.
  2. Depression and Anxiety: Domestic violence can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety disorders in survivors. The persistent stress, fear, and feelings of helplessness associated with long-term abuse can erode self-esteem and lead to overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
  3. Complex Trauma: Long-term exposure to domestic violence can result in complex trauma, which encompasses a wide range of psychological and emotional symptoms. Complex trauma is characterized by disruptions in self-concept, interpersonal relationships, and emotional regulation, making it challenging for survivors to navigate their daily lives and form healthy connections with others.
  4. Dissociation: Survivors of long-term domestic violence may experience dissociative symptoms as a coping mechanism to detach from the overwhelming emotions and sensations associated with the abuse. Dissociation can manifest as feeling disconnected from oneself or the outside world, experiencing gaps in memory, or having an altered sense of reality.
  5. Self-Esteem and Self-Image: Domestic violence can profoundly impact survivors’ self-esteem and self-image, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame. Abusers often employ tactics such as gaslighting and verbal abuse to undermine survivors’ confidence and sense of worth, leaving lasting scars on their self-perception. Victims are often a shadow of their former selves after leaving an abusive relationship.
  6. Trust and Intimacy Issues: Long-term domestic violence can damage survivors’ ability to trust others and form intimate relationships. Betrayal and betrayal trauma resulting from abuse can lead survivors to become guarded, withdrawn, or avoidant in their interactions with others, making it difficult to establish and maintain healthy connections.
  7. Coping Mechanisms and Maladaptive Behaviors: Survivors of long-term domestic violence may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or disordered eating, as a way to manage overwhelming emotions and distress. These coping strategies, while initially providing a sense of relief, can ultimately exacerbate psychological distress and undermine long-term well-being.
  8. Impact on Children: Children who witness or experience domestic violence in the home may also suffer significant psychological consequences, including emotional dysregulation, behavioural problems, and developmental delays. The intergenerational transmission of trauma can perpetuate cycles of abuse and further complicate survivors’ recovery journey.

It’s important to recognize that the psychological impact of long-term domestic violence is profound and pervasive, affecting every aspect of survivors’ lives. Seeking support from mental health professionals, domestic violence advocates, and support groups can be instrumental in healing from the trauma of abuse and rebuilding a sense of safety, autonomy, and resilience.

Book a counselling session with Tracy here.

Recent Posts