What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
People often associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with soldiers and veterans. The truth is, PTSD can affect anyone who has witnessed or suffered a life-threatening or otherwise traumatic event. For this reason, domestic violence and child abuse survivors often suffer from PTSD. There are several options for victims of domestic violence and child abuse who are looking for ways to cope with their PTSD.
Victims of domestic violence and child abuse may turn to drugs and alcohol
Living with the effects of domestic violence and child abuse can be overwhelming for anyone, no matter the age. Survivors often feel as though they had no control over their situation, and they may self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with their overwhelming feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, anxiety, and fear. This especially is the case when a survivor suffers from PTSD, because the disorder amplifies those feelings.
In fact, severe anxietyand panic may be two symptoms a survivor of domestic violence or child abuse suffers when he also has PTSD. Survivors may have recurring images of the abuse, and they often experience the same level of anxiety they had when the event occurred; that’s why some survivors feel as though the event is occurring in the present time, even though they are in a safe environment. Nightmares of the trauma are realistic and disturbing, which results in the survivor being unable to rest at night.
Treatment options are successful for domestic violence and child abuse survivors who also suffer from PTSD
One of the most effective treatments for PTSD is a hybrid of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Survivors discuss their experiences with a trusted, understanding therapist who works with them gently and repeatedly. The goal is to change the brain so healing can occur, and the process often takes a great deal of time and patience. PTSD sufferers often take medication in addition to undergoing psychotherapyto address their symptoms and learn healthy ways to cope with the disorder. Trust is an essential component of therapy.
Alternative treatments also are successful in helping domestic violence and child abuse survivors who suffer from PTSD to cope in healthier ways. Some sufferers of PTSD report success with acupuncture, meditation, relaxation practices, yoga, and other mind-body practices, not to mention plain, old-fashioned exercise. Some have found relief with aquatic therapy, making pool ownership a good idea. Other survivors get paired with a service dog that is specifically trained to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities rather than physical disabilities. PTSD dogs help survivors remember to take their medication, come back to reality when in the midst of a flashback or hallucination, and wake from nightmares. Having a relationship with a service dog aids survivors in learning to trust others as well.
It is possible to have healthy relationships after abusive ones
Survivors of domestic violence and child abuse who suffer from PTSD often have long-lasting effects from the abusive situation. They may experience flashbacks, be fearful even when safe, and feel isolated. They also may suffer from depression, anxiety, and insecurity.
Yet, it is possible for survivors of domestic violence and child abuse to have healthy relationships. The first step is for the survivor to recognize that she is a survivor. It is helpful to realize that overcoming an abusive situation takes courage, strength, and endurance. Identifying as a survivor, rather than as a victim, is critical to establishing healthy relationships. Survivors should realize that they are worthy of love, acceptance, and kindness and work toward finding a partner or caregiver who honors them and treats them as they deserve to be treated.
Breaking the cycle of violence
Unfortunately, it is common for individuals who suffer from PTSD to have an inclination toward violence. A person who was abused as a child may develop PTSD and then become an abusive spouse or parent himself. This cycle of abusemay seem endless, but it is possible to break the cycle.
It is important for adults to resolve the trauma from their past and identify what influences their behavior. By identifying patterns they don’t like, they can begin to change them. It also is helpful to learn calming techniques and lead by example in order to act rationally and think before reacting or being aggressive toward others. Discuss situations with loved ones and repair any situations that should have been handled differently. Family members, both adults and children, should share their feelings and have the opportunity to apologize and establish trust. Breaking the cycle of violence takes time and effort, but it is well worth it.
There is help and hope available for survivors of domestic violence and child abuse who also suffer from PTSD. Avoiding self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, learning about common and alternative treatment options, taking steps to recognize healthy relationships, and breaking the cycle of violence are important steps in the process of healing.