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Symptoms of Domestic Violence

Abusive relationships have a powerful psychological impact on the victims. And while domestic violence is not a mental health condition formally recognized by mental health professionals as warranting its own diagnosis, victims of domestic abuse can have many of the following symptoms.

Many victims of domestic violence may qualify for a mental health diagnosis, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The longer domestic violence occurs for, the more likely a victim will qualify for a mental disorder diagnosis as its negative effects continue to grow. Few victims come out od a domestic violence situation emotionally (or physically) unscathed. The best thing a victim of domestic violence can do for themselves is to recognize the signs and get help.

Emotional & Behavioral Symptoms of Domestic Violence

Victims of an abusive relationship may experience some of the following emotions and behaviors:

  • Agitation, anxiety and chronic apprehension
  • Constant state of alertness that makes it difficult for them to relax or sleep
  • A sense of hopelessness, helplessness or despair because the victim believes they will never escape the control of their abuser
  • Fear that one cannot protect oneself or one’s children. This person will turn down the assistance offered by relatives, friends or professionals.
  • Feeling paralyzed by fear to make decisions or protect oneself
  • A belief that one deserves the abuse
  • A belief that one is responsible for the abuse
  • Flashbacks, recurrent thoughts and memories of the violence and nightmares of the violence
  • Emotional reactions to reminders of domestic violence

Physical Symptoms

Victims of domestic violence can also have physical symptoms that aren’t directly caused by physical abuse. These symptoms are instead caused by the constant stress and tension of living in an abusive relationship. These symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Chronic pain
  • Restless sleep or inability to sleep
  • Genital soreness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Back pain

You may also be interested in learning more about these symptoms by reading the article, The Physical & Emotional Injuries of Domestic Violence.

Symptoms of Domestic Violence

Toby D. Goldsmith, MD

APA Reference
Goldsmith, T. (2018). Symptoms of Domestic Violence. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.