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Addiction and Domestic Violence

    Addiction and Domestic Violence

    Domestic violence refers to any type of abuse that takes place in a domestic setting, primarily between couples and family members. It can include physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse and can be a terrifying and isolating experience for the victim.

    Coupled with substance abuse and addiction, domestic violence can quickly spiral out of control and become a dangerous or even deadly situation.

    In some cases, victims of domestic abuse may fall into the trap of addiction themselves as they attempt to numb the pain and fear with various substances.

    What are the different types of domestic violence?

    Domestic violence comes in many forms, with some leaving physical marks and others resulting in emotional and mental distress that may not always be visible to other people.

    It’s a common misconception that the term ‘domestic violence’ only applies to physical abuse – in fact, it encompasses a wide range of behaviours that can be extremely damaging to the victim.

    It’s important to be aware of the different types of domestic violence in order to better recognise the signs in your own relationship or those of others and to understand that you do not have to remain in a situation in which you are suffering abuse.

    Common types of domestic violence include:

    1. Physical abuse

    Often the most recognisable type of domestic violence, physical abuse can involve hitting, pushing, slapping, scratching and biting although it does not always leave a visible mark on the victim.

    2. Mental abuse

    Victims of mental abuse are often left with low self-confidence and little self-worth due to the constant criticism and humiliation that they are subjected to. The abuser will blame their problems on the victim and attempt to make them feel as though everything is their fault.

    3. Emotional abuse

    Emotional abuse can be extremely manipulative with the abuser often attempting to make their victim feel guilty, worthless or undesirable in an effort to force them to succumb to their will. They may be unreasonably suspicious, act as though they are a victim and be frequently dishonest with their partner.

    4. Sexual abuse

    A violent display of power and control, sexual abuse involves forcing another person to submit to their sexual demands and can include rape, inappropriate touching and remarks, pressure to perform sexual acts and/or harassment.

    5. Verbal abuse

    When someone uses their words to hurt and demean another person, this is known as verbal abuse. They may use name-calling and derogatory insults in an effort to shame their victim and make them feel bad about themselves.

    6. Social abuse

    In many cases, victims of social abuse become isolated from their friends, family and community due to the abuser’s actions. They may physically prevent them from seeing other people or emotionally gaslight and make them feel guilty for wanting to spend time with friends. Social abusers may also intentionally destroy their victim’s reputations in an effort to cut them off from the world.

    7. Financial abuse

    Money may be used as a tool by perpetrators of domestic violence, and this is known as financial abuse. It can involve forcing the victim to become financially dependent on them, withholding money and frequently shaming them for their financial choices.

    8. Stalking

    Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be stalked by someone that you are currently in a relationship. The abuser may constantly monitor and observe their victim as well as their friends, family and colleagues, possibly impersonating them online and/or accessing their social media accounts even after being asked to stop the behaviour.

    Why are addiction and domestic violence linked?

    Addiction and domestic violence share many similar characteristics, including frequent loss of control and the continuation of detrimental behaviour despite experiencing negative consequences.

    It can be difficult to control your reactions and emotions when under the influence of alcohol and other substances, making it more likely for the individual to react to certain situations impulsively and aggressively.

    Many substances physically rewire the brain, potentially increasing the chances of violent and abusive behaviour as they attempt to obtain and use the substance despite any repercussions. [1]

    What are the effects of domestic violence?

    While victims of domestic violence may not always be in physical danger, their emotional and mental health can be severely affected by the above forms of abuse.

    These effects can be long-lasting and extremely detrimental, and many linger long after the relationship has ended.

    Common effects of domestic violence include:

    1. Substance abuse

    Living with an abusive partner can be an isolating and terrifying experience, and many people begin to self-medicate with alcohol and other addictive substances as a coping mechanism.

    Over time this can spiral into a devastating addiction, particularly if the victim regularly increases the dosage or frequency of ingestion over time.

    2. Social isolation

    In many cases, the abuser will gradually isolate their victim from their friends, family and community, and as a result, they will begin to depend solely on the abuser for companionship. This can make it very difficult to leave an abusive relationship, as the victim may feel as though they have no one else to rely on.

    3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    Being a victim of domestic violence can be a traumatic experience, and many people suffer from PTSD even after they have managed to leave the relationship.

    They may experience flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and insomnia due to the memories involved and will need professional counselling in order to move past this experience in a healthy manner.

    4. Self-harm and suicide

    It’s a sad truth that domestic violence and abuse can cause many victims to consider taking their own lives, with one study finding that 1 in 8 of all female suicide attempts in the UK is due to domestic violence. [2]

    It’s common for both men and women to turn the pain inwards, resorting to self-harming and suicidal ideation as a coping mechanism.

    5. Anxiety and depression

    There are strong links between domestic violence and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression due to the trauma and emotional neglect experienced in these situations.

    One study revealed that 20% of women who sought help for mental health issues had suffered from domestic violence at the hands of their partner, and these disorders can linger even after the relationship ends. [3]

    6. Damage to career and academic performance

    It’s common for victims of domestic abuse to be physically or emotionally prevented from attending work or school, or from having any interests or hobbies outside of the relationship.

    As a result, they may perform poorly at work or school and display a high rate of absenteeism, potentially costing them their career or preventing them from achieving important qualifications.

    What are the warning signs of domestic violence and addiction?

    Although it may often appear to begin suddenly, there are a number of warning signs that may indicate that your partner’s addiction or substance abuse is beginning to spiral into domestic violence.

    Most types of abuse start slowly and can creep up on you, and it can often be difficult to recognise that you are trapped in a cycle of addiction and domestic violence.

    The following warning signs apply to both men and women and can be an indication that you are in potential danger.

    Common warning signs of domestic violence include:

    • They blame their words and actions on alcohol or other substances
    • They become aggressive, agitated and angry after drinking alcohol or taking other substances
    • They become verbally abusive, both alone and in front of others
    • They become physically abusive towards you, including ‘smaller’ behaviours such as pushing or pinching
    • They frequently lie to you
    • You feel afraid of them on a regular basis
    • They make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with other people or make decisions for yourself
    • They attempt to embarrass you in front of other people
    • They damage your personal items, both under the influence and sober
    • They threaten to hurt or kill you, your pets or other people that you care about
    • They physically or emotionally prevent you from attending work, school or other activities
    • They make every decision for you, including when you sleep and what you eat
    • They take control of your finances and force you to ask permission to spend money
    • They refuse to let you spend time with other people and encourage you to withdraw from other relationships

    If you notice any of the above signs beginning to occur in your relationship, it’s important that you take action as soon as possible to prevent the abuse from increasing and getting worse.

    Remember that you do not deserve to be treated in this way. You have the right to live freely and without fear, and there are a number of steps that you can take in order to escape the cycle of abuse.

    How to get help for domestic violence and addiction

    Anyone experiencing domestic violence must receive the appropriate help and support in order to safeguard their physical, mental and emotional health and ensure they are not left in a dangerous situation.

    There are a number of resources that can help victims of domestic violence and addiction including the National Domestic Violence Helpline, which runs 24/7 and is completely free of charge.

    Call them on 0808 2000 247 or contact them via live chat on their website for advice, help and support from fully-trained and experienced workers.

    However, it is not only the victims that need help. If you are trapped in a cycle of substance abuse and domestic violence, you are not alone.

    Recognising that your behaviour is detrimental and severely impacting your relationship is a highly commendable first step, and it’s important to follow up on this progress by seeking help for your addiction.

    Our friendly and non-judgmental team are just a phone call away – we can help you select a treatment method and recovery programme that works for you and your lifestyle or simply talk you through your options if you aren’t sure where to begin.






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