The effects of physical abuse can be both acute and far-reaching. The immediate effect of physical abuse may be a bruise or a cut, but the long-term effect may be drastic - like post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, the effects of physical abuse can be felt by loved ones and, especially, children of both the victim and abuser. The psychological effects of physical abuse should not be underestimated.
Physical Effects of Physical Abuse
The short-term effects of physical abuse are typically obvious and treatable by an emergency room physician or other healthcare provider. They can range from cuts, bruises, broken bones and other physical maladies. There are long-term physical abuse effects from these injuries as well, however.
Unfortunately, many of the injuries sustained from physical abuse affect the victim as they grow older. The long-term effects of physical abuse include:1
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- Sexually transmitted diseases (in the cases where sexual abuse was part of the physical abuse)
- Chronic pain syndromes
See more information on Signs of Physical Abuse.
Other physical illnesses, such as diabetes, may be worsened due to physical abuse as the victim may have been denied access to care. Murder and suicide are also frequently associated with physical abuse.
Pregnancies are also frequently impacted by physical abuse. The effects of physical abuse on a pregnancy include:
- Poor weight gain
- Preterm labor
- Low infant birth weight
Psychological Effects of Physical Abuse
Unfortunately, some of the longest-lasting and most debilitating effects of physical abuse are psychological in nature. Depression is the primary psychological response to physical abuse but drug and alcohol abuse is also common. Abused women have a 16-times greater risk of abusing alcohol and a 9-times greater risk of abusing drugs when compared to non-abused women. Other psychological effects of physical abuse include:2
- Suicidal behavior
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Effects of Physical Abuse on Children
"...on Mother's Day of that year, he broke my back, showing my son how it was done..."3
Children are severely affected by physical abuse even if they, themselves, were not the victims of violence. It has been found that one-third of children who witness the battering of their mother demonstrate significant behavioural and emotional problems. The effects of physical abuse on children may include:
- Psychosomatic disorders (disorders in which mental factors play a significant role – often vague complaints of pain)
- Anxiety; fears; compulsive behavior
- Sleep disruption
- Excessive crying
- Problems at school
- Self-destructive behavior; running away
- Anger and hostility
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty trusting others; relationship problems
Children who witness physical abuse are also more likely to be victims (often women) or perpetrators (often men) of physical abuse as adults.
Pictures of Physical Abuse
The pictures of physical abuse can be graphic and very upsetting. And while these images of physical abuse may be disturbing, it's important to remember the terror the person is experiencing on the inside also.
Image depicting Lizzette Ochoa Amador. Taken by Lizzette's aunt, Astrid Amador, who took pictures of her niece at the hospital after her husband hit her on June 30, 2006.
Picture of a battered woman. Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image of a child sad and scared.
Image of domestic violence. Photo credit: Concha Garcia Hernandez
Image of battered man.
- Created: 26 July 2012
- Last Updated: 14 January 2014