MENTAL ILLNESS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive behaviors that may include the following:
Progressive social isolation
Deprivation neglect and
These behaviors are perpetrated by someone who is or was involved in an intimate relationship with the victim; consequently, this pattern of abuse tends to run a chronic course until something is done about it. Unfortunately, in some severe cases, the victim may not make it out of such relationship alive. Domestic violence is a public health problem that needs significant attention.
MENTAL ILLNESS AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE-Can Be Discussed Under Two Headings
(1) Mental health RESULTING from Domestic violence
(2) Mental Health as a CAUSE of Domestic Violence
MENTAL HEALTH CONSEQUENCE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The usual progression of abusive behavior starts with Emotional or Psychological abuse usually done as a means of controlling or degrading the victim through fear. The progression usually follows this order.
- Lying, breaking promises, and destroying trust
- False accusations, blaming the victim for everything
- Calling of names and constantly criticizing, insulting, and demeaning of the victim
- Extreme jealousy and possessiveness
- Ignoring, dismissing, or ridiculing the victim’s needs
- Deprivation, degradation, and humiliation
- Physical and social isolation
- Intimidation and the verbal threat of harm
All these abusive behaviors ultimately lead to physical assault. This often starts with simple shoving and pushing but with time, it escalates to striking with fists and objects. In most severe cases, a deadly weapon such as knives or sharp objects can be used.
Sexual abuse is another form of physical assault. The perpetrator aims to use this means as a tool to control and humiliate the victim. A good understanding of this progression allows the victim to know the usual warning signs and act accordingly in a timely manner in order to avoid its progression.
Women who reported both Childhood abuse, as well as Domestic abuse as adults, report a higher prevalence of mental illnesses when compared with women who only suffered abuses as adults. The mental health consequences of this abusive behavior include:
- Psychoactive Drug dependence
- Anxiety Disorder
- Alcohol dependence and
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In recent times, some cases of suicide attempts resulting from domestic violence have been reported.
MENTAL ILLNESS AS A CAUSE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Mental illnesses always produce a state of internal conflict in its sufferer. Consequently, individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses, exhibit extreme difficulty in their understanding and interaction with their immediate environment. Such individuals are faced with a laundry list of problems reflecting their difficulty relating to people. This includes conflict with their close relatives who by the way, are charged with the burden of caring for them. It is also a common place to discover some degree of domestic abuse from family members and caregivers of people with mental illness.
This assaultive behavior from mentally ill individuals is a result of multiple factors such as:
(1) A chemical imbalance in the brain which results in undue aggression, intense irritability, impulsivity, explosive anger and other manic symptoms. All these may result in assaultive behavior
(2) Delusions, defined by fixed false belief not shared by others, are common symptoms of psychotic illnesses. They are more intense than mere suspicion which can respond to the voice of reasoning. In delusional symptoms, the use of Antipsychotic medications is necessitated. Individuals under paranoid delusions have been known to attack their spouses in “defense”; because they believe their spouses may have been plotting to harm or kill them. Some delusions cause the individuals to be extremely jealous and possessive of their spouses thus leading to abusive behavior
(3) Hallucination is the term used when a mentally ill person starts seeing things and hearing things that other people do not perceive. As a result, they exhibit some forms of disorganized behaviors, some of which may be assaultive to their spouses.
(4) Individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders often experience a “flashback” of a past traumatic event such as a battle war field (as reported by some war veterans). This flashback may occur while in their bedrooms with their spouses. During such flashbacks, the individual turns he bedroom into a battlefield – using available as war weapon (as seen in his vision) consequently attacking anyone in sight including their spouses. Some have been known to accidentally kill their wives during such episodes.
(5) Substance Abuse is a frequent co-morbid illness common to individuals with mental health challenges. Alcohol and illicit drug use always lead to disinhibition and undue aggression.
Finally, mentally ill individuals are more prone to domestic abuse by their family members and caregivers due to a number of reasons such as:
(1) The stigma attached to mental illnesses- This is more so in the developing countries where there is a low level of awareness on the cause of mental illnesses. Some people still believe that mental illnesses are results of demonic possessions that can only be “beaten out” of such individuals.
(2) Unavailability of necessary social support systems- for these individuals often results in high rate of homelessness, undernutrition and poor access to healthcare.
(3) Frustrations-are often experienced and expressed by family members – caregivers of mentally ill individuals. This often results in neglect and deprivation of essential needs by these family members- care providers because they are burnt out by the burden of caring for these mentally challenged people
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE- Solutions And Recommendations
More often than none, women are the victims of domestic violence. The decision as to what their next line of action should be is further compounded by how attached they are with the perpetrator. This is even more so if they are legally espoused to one another or if they are codependent on one another. Similarly, the decision to embark on separation or divorce proceeding is frowned upon by some cultures of the world. My recommendation has always been to always think of the likely end-result of persisting assault on your health and your life.
Don’t be blinded by the nature of the relationship, identify the abusive pattern as early as possible before it progresses to the physical stage. Address early verbal abuse and early gestures of inconsiderate behavior pattern by resisting it and seek professional help immediately. A simple verbal abuse can progress to full-blown physical assault.
Physical assault, after its first occurrence, is a groud for Temporary separation and the call for help.
In some advance and unusual cases, permanent separation may be the best option.
There are various governmental and Non-governmental agencies in your country that may be able to offer the needed support at this point in your life.
Yur can only enjoy relationships if you are alive and well.