The problem of domestic violence experienced by psychiatric patients is particularly acute now that the statistics show the rapidly growing number of cases of family abuse (Chanmugam, Triplett, & Kelen, 2013). As long as the need for addressing the problem urgently seems to be evident, the question consequently comes up regarding the ways of improving the current situation.
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The paper at hand is aimed at examining the problem of domestic violence and mental disorders. It is considered critical to study this interconnection, as well as to point out the main methods of identifying domestic violence and abuse. A particular emphasis is put on the aspect of treatment and prevention. Hence, it is suggested that an effective prevention strategy needs to be worked out in order to reduce the cases of domestic violence and related mental disorders.
Domestic Violence and Mental Health
First and foremost, it is critical to overview the impact that domestic violence has on mental health. Specialists point out that domestic violence is commonly associated with a series of mental disorders such as stress, depression, suicidal ideation, to name but a few (Howard, Feder, & Agnew-Davies, 2013, p. 18). Whatever paradoxical it might seem, domestic violence is not always the cause of a mental disorder but rather its consequence. Numerous studies have revealed that a major percentage of the women diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or stress have become victims of domestic violence (Chanmugam, Triplett, & Kelen, 2013).
At this point, it is hard to distinguish whether the mental condition has developed because of the negative experience or the disorder had appeared before the violence was applied. On the face of it, it seems to be rational to assume that it is the negative experience that leads to the disorder’s progress. Thus, statistics show that the victims of domestic abuse are twice more likely to have some symptoms of psychiatric disorders (Chanmugam, Triplett, & Kelen, 2013, p. 285). Otherwise stated, diseases can be inborn or naturally developed – the problem is that they are prompted to progress by the partner’s violent and abusive treatment. In the meantime, there might be a reversed interconnection as well – domestic violence is more apt to be applied to people with mental disorders. Whatever the case is, it is evident that the number of patients with psychiatric diagnoses that have experienced domestic abuse is significant, and it is essential to work out a consistent treatment strategy.
Identifying Domestic Violence
To begin with, it is necessary to consider the ways in which domestic violence can be identified. On the face of it, the simplest way to identify domestic violence is to examine a patient’s physical condition for the purpose of finding some signs of injuries: bruises, fractures, bites, etc. However, it is not obligatory that such signs are present. In this case, recognizing domestic violence is quite problematic. Hence, patients with mental disorders are not always willing to reveal their family background and might express resistance to speaking about their partners’ violent behavior. Howard, Feder and Agnew-Davies (2013) offer a detailed guideline for indicating domestic violence in a patient (p. 30).
Hence, they suggest that a victim of domestic abuse is likely to be recognized with the help of some psychological indicators: post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep and anxiety disorders, exacerbated psychotic symptoms, drug and alcohol addictions, and self-harming behavior. Apart from the psychological indicators, a health care specialist can try to identify some concerning behaviors: vague complaints and unconcealed fear and anxiety. In addition, the victims of domestic abuse tend to avoid home visits and wear the clothes that hide the physical signs of violence. The key problem resides in the fact that these people are highly unwilling to address the relevant health care centers as they are afraid of revealing their partners’ actions. As a result, it might be concluded that the key barrier to identifying domestic abuse resides in the resistance that patients show to revealing it. Therefore, the primary task resides in creating such an environment within which patients will feel safe enough to speak about their family problems.
A brief overview of the relevant literature has shown that the problem of interventions that can be applied in the case of family violence is poorly addressed. In the meantime, it is possible to elucidate the main types of medical interventions that can be used in such cases. First and foremost, Howard, Feder, and Agnew-Davies (2013) point out psychological interventions (p. 64). From this perspective, it is a cognitive-behavioral therapy that is commonly applied to treating this type of patient. Meanwhile, the authors note that the effectiveness of this method is not empirically proved (p. 65). Therefore, it is suggested that the victims of family abuse undergo a group course in the special health care centers. This type of intervention is considered to be more effective due to the favorable impact that the relevant settings can have. Thus, the patients are more likely to feel safe and secure when they are isolated from the violent environment. Moreover, the group character of the course also has a positive influence on the treatment progress as it helps the patients share their experiences and discuss their problems more openly. Phelan and Hamberger (2004), in their turn, suggest that the best way to address the problem is to carry out an effective prevention activity (272). Broadly speaking, it is considered more rational to eliminate the cause of the problem rather than its consequences.
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Chanmugam, A., Triplett, P., & Kelen, G. (2013). Emergency Psychiatry. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Howard, L., Feder, G., & Agnew-Davies, R. (2013). Domestic Violence and Mental Health. Glasgow: RCPsych Publications.
Phelan, M.B., & Hamberger, L.K. (2004). Domestic Violence Screening and Intervention in Medical and Mental Healthcare Settings. New York, New York: Springer Publishing Company.