Domestic violence and substance abuse are closely linked and frequently, they happen at the same time. They are related very much in the same way that co-occurring mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are related to increased drug use and vice versa. One is often a symptom of the other, and in many instances, they go hand in hand.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence also called “domestic abuse” or “intimate partner violence” (IPV) can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to get or maintain control and power over an intimate partner. Abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence the other person.
Included in this are any behaviors that are meant to:
Identifying Signs of Domestic Abuse
Does your partner:
- Make fun of you or embarrass you in front of your family or friends?
- Belittle your accomplishments?
- Make you feel like you aren’t able to make decisions?
- Use intimidation or threaten you to get your consent?
- Tell you that you are worthless without them?
- Treat you roughly? (i.e. grabbing, pushing, shoving, pinching, and hitting)
- Call you many times a night or just show up to make sure you’re where you said you’d be?
- Use alcohol or drugs as an excuse for abusing you or saying hurtful things?
- Blame you for their actions and feelings?
- Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t comfortable with?
- Make you feel like you have no way out of the relationship?
- Keep you from doing things you want, such as spending time with family and friends?
- Try to keep you from leaving after a fight?
- Leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson”?
- Sometimes feel afraid of what your partner might do?
- Often make excuses for your partner’s behavior?
- Believe that you can help your partner change if you change something about yourself?
- Try not to do anything that might make your partner angry or cause conflict?
- Always do what your partner wants instead of what you want?
- Stay with your partner because you’re afraid of what they’d do if you broke up?
Types of Abuse
Sexual assaults (or threats to commit them) and physical abuse are the most obvious types of domestic violence and are usually the actions that make it possible for other people to become aware of the problem. However, using other abusive behaviors allows the abuser to take control of the victim’s life and situation.
Emotional abuse includes destroying a person’s sense of self-worth through constant criticism and other verbal abuse. You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:
- Constantly criticizes you, insults you, or calls you names
- Doesn’t trust you and acts jealous and possessive
- Isolates you from friends or family
- Monitors where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with
- Doesn’t want you to work
- Withholds affection as punishment
- Expects you to ask for permission to do anything
- Threatens you, the children, your family, or your pets
Psychological abuse involves:
- Using intimidation to cause fear
- Threatening physical harm to themself, their partner, or their children
- Destruction of property and pets
- Forcing isolation from family, friends, school, or work
Economic or Financial Abuse
This type of abuse involves:
- Trying to make a person financially dependent by controlling and maintaining total control of financial resources
- Cutting off access to money
- Denying attendance at school or employment
You might be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner:
- Causes damages to property when angry by throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.
- Slaps, pushes, bites, kicks, or chokes you
- Denies you medical care or police assistance
- Forces alcohol or drug use on you
- Leaves you in an unfamiliar or dangerous place
- Drives recklessly to scare you
- Uses a weapon to hurt or threaten you
- Forces you out of your home
- Keeps you trapped in your home
- Harms your children
- Uses physical force in sexual situations
Sexual abuse involves forcing a partner to participate in a sex act without their consent. You might be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:
- Is frequently jealous of outside relationships and accuses you of cheating
- Makes you dress in a sexual way
- Calls you sexual names or insults you in sexual ways
- Has manipulated or forced you into having sex or performing sexual acts
- Holds you down during sex
- Demands sex when you are tired, sick, or after beating you
- Injures you with weapons or objects during sex
- Involves other people in your sexual activities
- Ignores your feelings about sex
What Are the Mental Health Consequences of Domestic Violence?
The effects of domestic violence on your mental health are going to be severe and long-lasting. Being exposed to violence and abuse increases your risk of experiencing:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Depression disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal behavior
The most commonly used tool of domestic violence is coercive control. This is a pattern of domination achieved through a strategy of intimidation and entrapment and it has especially damaging effects on an individual’s mental health. Coercive control strategies have significant consequences for the survivor’s mental health through extended, repeated trauma that is inescapable and unpredictable.
Continuous and repeated trauma often displays a more complex pattern of psychological symptoms than a single traumatic event. Along with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, people with complex PTSD are more liable to experience dissociation. They may feel disconnected from themselves and the world.
They might experience amnesia about certain time periods, events, people, and personal facts. Individuals with complex PTSD might feel detached from their emotions. Changes in memory, identity, and personality may ensue. People may have a negative self-concept, relationship problems, and impaired functioning.
What Is Addiction?
Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder (SUD), is a disease that affects your brain and behavior. It causes you to be unable to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine are also considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you keep using the drug in spite of the damage it causes you.
The risk of becoming addicted and how fast you become addicted varies by drug. For instance, opioid painkillers have a higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others. As time goes on, you may need larger doses to get high. Then, you may need the drug to feel good, or even just to feel “normal.”
As your use increases, you might find that it’s becoming more and more difficult to go without the drug. When you try to stop using the drug, it causes intense cravings and makes you physically sick. These are called withdrawal symptoms.
What Causes Drug Addiction?
Similar to many mental health disorders, there are several factors that may contribute to developing a drug addiction. Factors that can affect the speed and likelihood of developing an addiction include:
Drug addiction is more common in certain families and probably involves increased risk based on genetics. If you have a blood relative (parent or sibling) who has an addiction, you have a greater risk of developing an addiction.
Mental Health Disorder
People with mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become addicted to drugs. Using drugs is often a way of coping with difficult feelings like depression, anxiety, and loneliness but it can actually make these problems worse.
Peer pressure is a powerful factor in starting to use and abuse drugs, especially for adolescents and young adults.
Lack of Family Structure
Problematic family situations, a lack of a bond with your parents or siblings, and a lack of parental supervision can increase the risk of addiction.
Early Drug Use
Using drugs at an early age can cause the developing brain to change and increases the likelihood of addiction.
Using Highly Addictive Drugs
Certain drugs, such as stimulants, opioid painkillers, or cocaine may cause a quicker development of addiction than others. In addition, smoking or injecting drugs also increases the potential for addiction.
The Link Between Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse
Although addiction and domestic violence are intertwined, one doesn’t always foreshadow the other. Using drugs doesn’t always incite an aggressor to physical or emotional violence. And, being the victim of abuse doesn’t always lead to the abuse of dangerous substances. But when they occur together, they create chaos for everyone involved.
Long-term studies by the American Psychological Association (APA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and many other organizations found an unmistakable relationship between the two problems and how they co-occur. But despite which problem presents first, drug use and violent acts only intensify each other’s effects.
Understanding why domestic violence happens and why it’s so closely preceded or followed by substance abuse is because it’s part of a pattern of dominance or a need for control. The need to have control over someone else’s behavior frequently comes from distorted thought processes and deep-rooted psychological torment. Using drugs or alcohol makes neurotic thought patterns more destructive and intense.
Perpetrators, Victims, and SUD
Domestic violence perpetrators and victims both share the difficulty of substance abuse. According to the APA, excessive alcohol or drug abuse increases both the risk of being a victim of domestic violence and of becoming an abuser. Heavy use of substances increases your chances of becoming abusive and the mental distress of domestic violence often causes victims to rely on harmful substances.
In some cases, women in abusive relationships are bullied into using drugs or alcohol by their partners. Victims may experience panic disorders, PTSD, and other mental conditions as a result of domestic violence. To ease the stress, many turn to substances for relief.
The percentage of women who acknowledge that their mental health is poor is nearly three times higher among women with a history of domestic abuse than those in healthy relationships. The result of this is that intimate partner violence is often correlated with a seriously high rate of suicidal behavior and depression.
Treatment for Domestic Violence Victims
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one of the most common forms of violence toward women. It may lead women to negative health consequences, including mental health disorders. A number of psychotherapies may be employed to address the numerous stressors of IPV survivors including:
- The need for safety and resources
- The loss of an intimate relationship
- Social detachment
- Parenting concerns
The approaches that have shown the most effective are:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the present and helps people regain their safety while reducing PTSD symptoms and SUD.
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy: Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is an effective non-exposure treatment for PTSD.
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing: Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) combines behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and free association among other approaches.
- Psychopharmacological treatment: Medications can be used when treating the mental health consequences of IPV and SUD.
A person suffering from a mental disorder and a substance use disorder as a result of domestic violence is said to have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring conditions. And both conditions must be treated at the same time, preferably by the same treatment team. Fortunately, many of the same therapies used to treat domestic violence victims are also effective for treating SUD.
Detox and Treatment
When treating a SUD, the first step is usually a detox to remove the toxins from your body. Depending on the substance abused, withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Following detox, you are ready for treatment which may include the previously mentioned therapies among others.
Find the Care and Safety You Need in Casco Bay
Casco Bay Recovery can provide you with a safe space to focus on yourself while you recover from the trauma of abuse and the nightmare of addiction. We have intensive outpatient programs including a women-only program, which tends to be critical for IPV victims.
The Casco Bay staff is licensed, qualified, experienced professionals who understand the different needs of men and women. How can we help you? Contact us today.