Domestic Abuse and Trauma in Women

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of behavior in a relationship that is abusive, controlling, threatening, degrading or violent; and used by a partner or ex-partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other. Drugs and alcohol are often involved.

Domestic violence is usually experienced by women and is perpetrated by men. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence);
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse;
  • Physical abuse;
  • Sexual abuse;
  • Financial abuse;
  • Harassment;
  • Stalking;
  • Online or digital abuse.

Statistics from England and Wales show that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and 8% will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Furthermore, 63% of female partner abuse victims had experienced non-physical abuse (emotional or financial) in the last year.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a condition associated with individuals who have been left feeling psychologically and/or physically damaged after experiencing a traumatic event. Typical causes that may lead to PTSD are:

  • Military combat;
  • Serious accidents and injury;
  • Natural disasters;
  • Acts of terrorism;
  • Sexual or physical assault during childhood or as an adult;
  • The death of a loved one.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms can manifest themselves at any time, particularly when the victim is somehow reminded of the traumatic events.

PTSD symptoms can be classified into several categories:

  • Recurrent memories (of the traumatic experience, flashbacks, nightmares, physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event)
  • Avoidance (talking or thinking about the traumatic episode, avoiding people or places that trigger memories)
  • Changes in thinking or mood (emotional numbness, difficulty keeping close relationships or feeling positive emotions, negative self-image)
  • Changes in emotional reactions (anger, panic attacks, feeling under threat all the time, insomnia, guilt and shame, self-destructive behaviour: drinking, reckless driving)

Sexual abuse is one of the most common causes of PTSD and addiction in women. The same traumatic experience that caused PTSD can also trigger an alcohol or drug addiction.

Taking Alcohol and Drugs as an Escape

Women are often afraid to report domestic abuse to the police and to seek help. They often turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate feelings of fear and anxiety and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Abusing alcohol or drugs may be seen as a way to cope with nightmares or insomnia caused by PTSD. All this does is worsen trauma symptoms, leading to an unhealthy cycle of avoidance, which actually prolongs the PTSD and intensifies the alcohol or drug addiction.

Dual Diagnosis

Rehab That Tackles Addiction, Domestic Abuse and PTSD In One Programme

Dual diagnosis is a complex condition. Successful treatment requires that both the PTSD and drug or alcohol addiction are treated simultaneously to undo the damage. Castle Craig has over 30 years of experience in treating addiction and co-occurring disorders such as PTSD, eating disorders, depression and other mental health issues.

Our integrated treatment plan for PTSD and addiction is made up of several components:

  • Individual psychotherapy to help the patient identify and manage triggers of traumatic memories and addiction.
  • Trauma therapy is led by experienced trauma therapists. It is offered both in a group sessions, where participants can learn ways to manage psychological and physical effects of trauma; as well as individual trauma therapy that helps the patient process unresolved trauma so that memories no longer interfere with addiction treatment.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is also helpful in treating both addiction and PTSD symptoms by addressing painful memories.
  • Other specialist groups, such as Women’s Group Therapy, Eating Disorders Therapy, Grief Therapy address specific issues that women commonly deal with.
  • Another type of therapy that we offer is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This is a specialist therapy for treating PTSD and involves processing suppressed negative memories and emotions.
  • Family therapy allows the patient to strengthen relationships with family members and educate family members about their loved one’s PTSD and addiction.
  • At Castle Craig patients are also introduced to the 12-step methodology and go to regular AA/NA 12-step group meetings that will strengthen their support network when leaving treatment.
  • As memories of traumatic events are often held in the body, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy may also be used.
  • Mindfulness teaches patients ways to regulate their arousal levels.
  • Other complementary therapies such as acupuncture and aromatherapy can be used to help the person relax.

Each patient is individually assessed and a personalised treatment plan is drawn together with their assigned therapist. The plan consists of a clear outline of which of the therapies described above best addresses the patient’s needs and that they will attend while in treatment at Castle Craig.

Get Help for PTSD and Addiction

If you or someone you care about is experiencing domestic abuse, PTSD or addiction, contact us to get help.