Female Domestic Abuse and Trauma


‘Domestic abuse’ can refer to a wide range of behaviours carried out by one member of a couple in order to exert power and control over the other. It can refer to either a single incident, or an ongoing pattern of behaviour that is threatening, abusive, degrading, violent or controlling. Most domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women, although in some cases it is the woman who is abusive.

Domestic abuse can include:

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence e.g. assault, rape
  • Psychological/emotional abuse
  • Harassment
  • Online abuse
  • Stalking
  • Financial abuse
  • A pattern of coercive control (controlling behaviour, intimidation, isolation and degradation with threatened physical or sexual violence)

In England and Wales, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and 8% will experience it in any given year. Among female domestic abuse victims, 69% had suffered non-physical abuse in the previous year.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is suffered by those who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. This event could be a physical encounter, or psychological trauma.

Some common causes of PTSD are:

  • Natural disasters
  • Severe accidents or injury
  • Sexual or physical violence, experienced as a child or adult
  • Terrorism
  • Military combat
  • A loved one’s death

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD symptoms can be brought on by specific triggers, or occur for no apparent reason.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Recurring negative memories (these can be experienced in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. The same physical responses that occurred during the traumatic experience can be triggered.)
  • Avoidance (to avoid triggering negative memories, the person may avoid speaking or thinking about the traumatic experience, as well as avoiding people or places associated with the experience)
  • Disordered emotions (experiencing panic attacks, anger, feeling on edge, guilt, shame, insomnia) and attempts to self medicate through destructive behaviour e.g. drinking, drug taking
  • In women, one of the most common causes of PTSD is suffering sexual abuse. This can trigger the development of addictive behaviours such as heavy drinking or drug use.

Using Alcohol and Drugs to Self-Medicate

In many cases, women do not report their experiences of domestic violence to the police. They often attempt to deal with their PTSD and other symptoms of abuse on their own. This can lead to a self-destructive pattern of behaviour involving heavy drinking or drug abuse.

Abusing alcohol or drugs may provide them with temporary relief from nightmares and flashbacks. However, in the long term, this behaviour actually prolongs and worsens the PTSD. This can in turn lead the individual to use drink and alcohol more heavily to avoid these symptoms, therefore continuing a destructive cycle.

Dual Diagnosis

Smarmore Castle treats addiction, PTSD and the psychological scars from domestic abuse in a combined rehab programme.

Dual diagnosis describes when a patient is suffering from addiction problems in addition to other psychological issues like PTSD, anxiety, depression or personality disorders. It is complex to treat co-occurring disorders.

For the best possible chance of recovery, it is vital that addiction problems are treated at the same time as co-occurring psychological issues. A residential rehab programme is the most effective method to treat dual diagnosis because the patient can be treated for all conditions on the same site, at the same time.

Smarmore Castle’s combined addiction and PTSD treatment programme incorporates several different elements:

  • Individual psychotherapy to help patients process and move past traumatic episodes, and better manage flashbacks.
  • Trauma therapy is specifically aimed at those who have suffered traumatic experiences. It is delivered by highly experienced trauma therapists in both individual and group settings.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective form of treatment for both addiction problems and PTSD.
  • Women’s Group TherapyEating Disorders Therapy, and Grief Therapy are other specialised forms of therapy we offer to former domestic violence victims.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been demonstrated to be a highly effective form of treatment for PTSD. It helps patients address and process suppressed memories and emotions.
  • Family therapy helps a patient’s loved ones to understand their problems, and address any issues.
  • Sensorimotor therapy may also be offered to help the patient process physical memories associated with the traumatic episode.
  • Mindfulness is one of a range of complementary therapies we offer which can help the patient to relax and better regulate their emotions.

On entering our programme, the patient will have a meeting with their personal therapist to decide which combination of the above therapies will be most beneficial to their treatment and to plan their personalised treatment plan.

Contact Us for PTSD and Addiction Help

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from domestic abuse, addiction problems and PTSD, then please contact us for more support.


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