Bad news. You had termites in your house. They ate at the walls for a while, but you called the exterminator and the pests are out. Unfortunately, there are still remnants of the termites' presence - marks in the wood, a weakened wall in the living room. For survivors of intimate partner violence - also known as dating or domestic violence - your mental health post-relationship abuse might be in bad shape, like a house post-termite invasion. This #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, we're talking about the relation between dating violence and our mental well-being.
So what is mental health? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, it is the state of your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The things that make you, YOU...so it's pretty important. When you are with someone who twists the dynamics of a relationship to have ultimate control, it can affect you in some pretty serious ways. Intimate partner violence (IPV) has been associated with negative mental health conditions by various studies. Goldberg’s 1999 study showed that women who had experienced IPV were 3-5 times more likely to have depression, suicidality, PTSD, and substance abuse than women who had not experienced IPV2. For teens of both genders, IPV is associated with alcohol consumption, drug use, cigarette use, as well as depression and lower self esteem1. Even outside of IPV, common warning signs of negative mental health include similar behaviors to those just mentioned such as substance abuse, feeling hopeless, and having persistent memories about an event3. When mental health issues are not addressed, the quality of your life is affected too - just like living in a termite-damaged house.
If you suffer from a pre-existing mental health condition or have negative symptoms due to IPV, that is not your fault. While you cannot change the way you were born or your past experiences, there is hope. Improving your mental outlook is possibile with activites like therapy, taking prescribed medicine, or exercises like yoga and meditation. Find the combination or mechanisms that work for YOU; everyone’s battle with mental health has its own unique challenges. It takes courage to rebuild after a tramautic incident like abuse, but you deserve a fresh start. There might be moments where you feel you can’t face the memories or times of relapse, and in those times, don't be afraid to ask for support. Together, we can fix the proverbial termite damage of intimate partner abuse.
1Ackard, D. M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & Hannan, P. (2002). Dating violence among a nationally representative sample of adolescent girls and boys: associations with behavioral and mental health. The journal of gender-specific medicine: JGSM: the official journal of the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia, 6(3), 39-48.
2Golding, J. M. (1999). Intimate partner violence as a risk factor for mental disorders: A meta-analysis. Journal of Family Violence, 14(2), 99-132.