Symptoms of Domestic Abuse and Depression Are the Same
Domestic abuse and depression share many symptoms. A long time ago, I told my doctor how I felt and he instantly diagnosed me with depression. Unfortunately, way back then, I don't think I had depression yet. I think the symptoms of domestic abuse were my problem. Unfortunately, the doctor didn't ask about domestic abuse, just depression. Maybe now, 20 years later, doctors do ask about domestic abuse and depression during the same visit.
I believe my diagnosis of depression was both a God-send and a curse. On the good side, the diagnosis opened up helpful treatments like medications and counseling. The medicines helped, but I didn't attend counseling. My ex-husband does not "believe in therapy," and I wanted on his good side as much as possible. Maybe the truth of both the domestic abuse and depression would have come out in therapy.
So the curse of the diagnosis was that it hid the domestic abuse, even from me. And doubly unfortunately, receiving the diagnosis caused me to believe that maybe my abusive ex-husband had been right all along. Maybe I was the cause of all our marital problems.
Domestic Abuse and Depression Symptoms Compared
The symptoms for both depression and domestic abuse are eerily similar. Following are several symptoms of depression (D) and then my interpretation as symptoms of domestic abuse.
- difficulty concentrating (D) coincides with the abuser's use of repeated interruptions during conversations and when the victim tries to do something for anyone other than the controller.
- difficulty remembering details (D) coincides with the abuser's continual remaking of history and insistence that their memories are correct and the victim's are wrong.
- difficulty making decisions (D) coincides with the abuse victim's knowledge that nothing they do will be "right" so decision-making becomes tough and anxiety provoking.
- fatigue and decreased energy (D) coincides with the unending stress caused by living with an abusive person.
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness (D) are also ideas a controlling person reinforces in the victim so control is easier to maintain.
- feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism (D) are the resulting feelings an abuse victim undergoes due to the abuser's control of them.
- insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping (D) are also signs of stress abuse victims experience.
- irritability, restlessness (D) can evolve after sleep disruption, anxiety, and other symptoms of domestic abuse.
- loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex (D) are usually present in abuse victims because the controller limits their pleasurable activities, and sex with an abusive person is not "fun".
- overeating or appetite loss (D) along with substance abuse or addictions of any kind can become coping mechanisms used by victims.
- persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment (D) are physical symptoms of anxiety and stress stress caused by abusive relationships.
- persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings (D) are hallmark signs that a victim feels "with no reason" since the abusive partner denies those feelings should exist in the victim because they "have it so good."
- thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts (D) also plague many victims of domestic abuse who are ever-increasingly hopeless as to find a solution to their relationship problems and may hear their abuser say "We'd be better off without you. You're a terrible mother!" or similar statements.
I believe the abuse I suffered at home triggered my depression. The domestic abuse would have happened because of who I married. But maybe the depression didn't have to happen. I probably would have been diagnosed earlier if I didn't go along with my husband's idea that the only thing wrong with me was that I was a spoiled brat.
Treating Depression and Domestic Abuse
Getting out of an abusive relationship was the best way to treat its symptoms. When I lived with someone who exhibited disordered behaviors (abused me), I was destined to fall into his unreal world defined by his control and my confusion. No one can live with the dis-ease abuse causes without developing a disease for his or herself.
To treat depression, I've opted for anti-depressants and therapy when I could get it. I didn't make therapy a priority; I wish I had. I've visited a few therapists at different times, and I've been on and off anti-depressants for many years. I thought that I shouldn't need the medication to be normal, but every time I stopped the meds, I fell into depression. I felt that having this mood disorder was something to hide - a shameful secret that I could overcome if I were stronger, smarter, or a better person (feelings reinforced my my ex-husband who scornfully called my medications "happy pills").
Now I realize that depression and its symptoms are not my fault. Depression is my brain's misguided chemical reaction within the unique confines of my genetics and environment. Try as I might, I can't control what my brain chemicals do (or neglect to do), but I can work with my brain to ease the pain of depression.
Domestic abuse and depression wove a tight knot around my thinking. My abuser's disdain for my "imaginary disease" and refusal to talk about it helped cement the stigma of depression in my thoughts. Now, without the domestic abuse, I feel I can heal from depression like I never would have if I'd stayed in my abusive marriage.
Although I've been on my own for two years, I continue to struggle with depression. I had hoped that the depression would disappear with the abuse, but it seems here to stay. With medication and by taking care of my body, I can ease my depression symptoms. Neither the symptoms of depression nor the symptoms of abuse are enough to keep me down.
Jo, K. (2012, May 16). Symptoms of Domestic Abuse and Depression Are the Same, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/05/domestic-abuse-depression
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
This site has put into word things that I've known but couldn't say. I live the cycle of abuse perfectly; tension, abuse, honeymoon. The honeymoon period is enough to make the abused person think things are OK, things are better, I mean look how good they are right now.... We quickly want to forget and forgive because this person loves us, right? It's only words. It sounds cruel but true. I've had to reflect on past loves. When that person said 'I love you', I felt it too. It was special. But now, when my wife says 'I love you', I feel nothing because her actions have proven to me otherwise.
I'm not allowed out of the house, except to go to work and get groceries. If I'm a minute 'late' getting home I'm accused of screwed any random number of women she feels like naming. I'm not allowed to work-out because it means that I'm getting in shape for 'someone special'. Meanwhile she runs all over town and all over Facebook. She's friends with all my high school friends, but I'm not allowed to have an account. I've subsequently lost all my friends so now I'm in a deeper hole. No one to help me through this.
Anyone who knew me 20years ago would say I'm not the same. I'm not myself but nobody is here to witness the change, the affects of abuse.
I now suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks which she is aware of but shows no concern for.
My church is no help because no one believes me. No ones has ever heard of a men being abused before. My Christian brothers called me a p**sy and told me to be a man and get control of my wife. I can't and won't treat someone the way I've been treated.
Out of desperation I wrote up a letter out-lining the abuse and read it aloud in our marriage counseling. Our counselor said, 'you are a smart man and making up a story like this in order to make your wife feel bad is exactly what she and I would expect from you.'
Does anyone know how humiliating and heartbreaking it is to finally reach that moment in counseling. Years of hell I've lived. Only to be told that I made it all up!! I was longing for a break-through, something to force a significant change.
My personal counselor is trying to help me re-phrase how I say things in order to not upset my wife. As much as I respect what he's trying to do. I said, I want to be able to speak freely without having to count every word. Rehearse sentences over and over before I speak out of fear. It's not like that many offensive things are flying out of my mouth. I just want to talk.
I'm being to think he doesn't believe that I'm abused either. The anxiety, depression, and panic attacks are the only things that I have to confirm that I'm not making this up. My body is telling me otherwise. Maybe others will believe me once I'm dead.
Maybe the one difference between women and men is that I've snapped out of anger from continual abuse and I've gone off yelled purely in defense of myself and not being heard. Because of this I've been forced to go to Anger Management. My children and I know that my wife is the angriest person that we know. She's a time-bomb that will go off at any time for any thing. NO Anger management for her. Our marriage counselor believes every word out of her mouth. An abuser won't admit to abuse. They are blind to it because it's completely justifiable in their mind.
As some stories have come out her version is COMPLETELY different from mine. Guess what? You guessing it. I'm accused of Gaslighting her. Meaning she's so convinced that I when I went to the restroom in the restaurant that I actually met the waitress for sex. And when I tell her that didn't happen that I'm gaslighting her by trying to make her think something other than what's true.
I'm getting pretty upset writing this. The horrific memories bouncing around my head. The way I've been treat. The lies that have been told against me. Argh.
Sorry for rambling, I could go on forever. Thank you for being here.
Thank you for your comment. I'm so sorry to hear about what you went through, but I'm glad you found a way to leave the marriage. You mentioned seeing a counselor, and I think that's a smart move, though I realize it may not be feasible for you at the moment. Is there an affordable therapy service in your area? Alternatively, could you contact a domestic abuse charity to see if there's any help or support available? There are charities that provide housing and funding to help abused women get back on their feet, so this might be worth exploring. Try contacting <a href="https://gcadv.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">The Georgia Coalition of Domestic Violence</a> to see if they can help.
What you've been through is incredibly traumatic and damaging, and it sounds like you're dealing with it boldly and bravely. However, going through this recovery process alone will only prolong the process, so don't be afraid to ask for help. I understand that finding a job and a new home are your number one priorities, and I think the rest will come, so just try and focus on one step at a time -- however small.
Good luck with your journey, and stay strong.
I'm in the process of leaving my abuser. My biggest problem is lack of energy to get my stuff packed. My physical problems add to that issue, but truthfully, I am kind of lazy now. I was never that way years ago. I was a "go-getter" type woman who got things done. Now I procrastinate on many things. I wish I could find someone to help me get packed so I could move out. Hopefully, I can hire someone to help me. I need a person to help me clean & pack my stuff. It needs to be over several days or a few weeks because of my physical limitations. Any ideas on how I can find help with this?
This man is not going to give you your confidence back. He's not going to help you find yourself again - he made you hide from yourself in the first place. If you compare being lonely to being torn down every day, mentally and physically, which do you prefer?
You're 10 months clear of him. Stop sleeping with him, stop letting him inside your house. Don't meet him except when he's going to see the children. Sadness is normal during abuse recovery, but you should see your doctor - you could be depressed.
Please Lucy. You've been remarkably strong so far. You aren't alone. Don't go back to him. Instead, visit http://thehotline.org and find some support groups in your area. Run toward support; run far away from him.
I do have some of my own personal issues, so I allowed my abuser to use that against me, convincing me that the problems in our relationship are all my fault. He does have a very giving, emotional, broken side that reaches out for help - but when he 'flips the switch', he become a raging monster of a bully that will often would not yell or scream, but would become frighteningly calm and describe ways he would like to hurt or even kill me. Other times he would yell and call me names, so bad that I can't even type them here. Even our pitbulls cower in a corner with their heads down and tails hidden beneath them in fear while he would verbally attack me. It never failed though that shortly thereafter, as if scolding a child, he would come to me quietly and apologize and say that he would not have to be that way if I would only do what I was told and not defy him. I have desperately tried to help him because I know there is a good man with good intentions inside of him, because I did see that side of him more than the monster, and I have believed that if I stay and continue that someday he would just magically have some epiphany and change his ways. Today after he physically struck me and kicked me out of the house, I now realize that this is MUCH bigger than I am and that I cannot help him at all. When I left, I went to my mother's where I am staying and blocked his calls and texts, even though he swore on his life he was NEVER going to contact me ever again. Sure enough, about 4 hours went by and he began his rant of messages through facebook messenger. Relentless of how everything is still all of my fault because I am a no good, stupid, most pathetic **** ***** on the planet. I simply messaged him back asking him not to message me any further and to let me get my dog because he beats her too and I am not there to protect her. Of course because she is something that I love, as he believes "more than him", he will not allow me to come and get her. I now know that I need to seek abuse counseling to stop this rollercoaster he has me on because clearly I am not strong enough to handle this alone. I have every single symptom listed above, ALL of them. I am already seeking help but now I know that I need to open up about how abusive this relationship has really been and stop covering it up and hiding it from my doctors and family. I just want to thank the author for this post in helping me finally admit to myself that I am a victim and no longer have to be subjected to his cruel and heartless abuse any longer.
If you haven't already, block him on Facebook and any other social media you use. Keep his emails, keep a record of his texts (for example, if he uses a friend's phone to text you). Write them down with the date and time. If you go to court in the future for a restraining order, for the dog, or for whatever lies he makes up, the court can subpoena your records if they need to, so you don't have to keep them on your phone after you record them.
Counseling and support groups will help you a LOT. Remember that you're already strong - you lasted all those years living in abuse AND you left his sorry butt. You're as strong as we get. In an ideal world, the effects of abuse would disappear as soon as we left. As it is, we need help getting past the effects of the abuse, so get it.
I am very happy for you and proud of you! I don't even know you, but I know what you've been through, and what it took for you to leave. <3 You're awesome!
There will be a day when you've got the depression under control and you know who you are beyond the shadow of a doubt. I know you feel guilty because depression amplifies any feeling of "I should have ..." and turns it into undeserved guilt. And I know you ruminate on the past because depression plays a tape of memories in your head that is difficult to silence. But these thoughts and feelings are due to the depression. They're not real. They're the imaginings of an injured brain, nothing more.
Hang in there with us, Chey. You can get that depression under control. You can feel better. Reach out for help from doctors and a therapist. Speak your truth to people you trust. Your children will come to understand your strength, and they will never consider you broken. You are their mom, and that's enough.
I lost a job that I studied long and hard for because I couldn't perform well with the constant worry. Even with a protection order in place, I don't trust him.
It is very tough to live fully day in and day out wondering if today is the day he will snap. The best thing I've found to do to reduce this worry is to follow all of the personal safety rules. Put them in place in your life, make them a habit. Besides, there are other "big and nasties" out there to protect yourself from too - not just the ex. For example, check your backseat before you get into the car - every time, even when you think the car was secure in the garage (this is how you make a habit). However, by all means tailor some of your self-protection habits around your ex. You know him best, what would he be most likely to try with you? In my case, I never let my ex in my house when I was home alone. He is sneaky and crafty enough to do some damage and then say he found me that way or whatever. I didn't LIKE to let him inside past the front door when other people were there because I didn't want him to get the lay of the land, so to speak.
You can't positively protect yourself against your ex anymore than you can against any other big and nasty who wants to do you harm. BUT you can protect yourself and arm yourself against the odds. It goes a long way toward easing the fear.
Whatever he says to your kids doesn't matter. I know it "matters" because its a lie and just plain wrong to say those things (especially to the kids!), but in the big scheme of things, his lies will show themselves as lies if you're patient. If/When your kids report to you what their father says, you can say simply, "Your father and I disagree on many things, and that is one of them," then leave it alone. If he's told them something stupid like "Mom is going to abandon you when she finds a boyfriend," then they are sharing a fear with you (would it happen, mama?). In that case, say something like, "It is wrong of your father to say such a thing. I promise you, Name of Child, I will never, ever leave you. I haven't done it yet, and I'm certainly not going to do it later."
The point of your responses is to NOT badmouth dad like he's doing to you. Agreeing/Disagreeing, pointing out that you wish he wouldn't fill their heads with nonsense, etc. in a calm way that quickly puts the focus back on the REAL struggle (in the case of fears) or dismisses it out of hand (in the case of agreeing/disagreeing), is the key. For a while, you may go back and forth with it in your head, having those internal arguments "with him" - but don't let it come out in your words. Your kids get enough crap from him. Your ability to "leave dad at dad's house" will bring them comfort. In time, when you see how your kids react to your calm, confident answers, you will come to feel that way, too. Your ex says those things hoping to stay in your head. Right now, he's getting his way. Only you can shut him out.
Hang in there, Cat. It will get better.
I think you are right...about his not having control over me when I started working! am so glad that you have a gut feeling he can change. I think he can too, and will read what you recommended.
One factor that may be causing him to get so mean could be the testosterone injections I give him once a week for his low testosterone levels...what do you think??? High levels of that hormone can make men more aggressive I have heard...and he almost doubles the dose!
I wonder if that could be a factor???
Thank You..and I really feel for all of you...
Your article on depression really is significant because most symptoms of depression aren't specifically related to domestic abuse. This explains it all as I know that I'm depressed, but the reasons made so much sense to me. I am normally a cheerful and social person, getting along with everyone except my husband. It's so true about the constant interruptions, the blurring of memories, the inability to communicate can have detrimental effects on my relations at times. People have told me that I talk too fast, but it's because I'm trying to get a word in with him. The loss of hope comes from not being able to make any decisions with him, be they simple daily ones or the really important ones for the future. I understand why it's hard for me to start projects or to pursue my interests because I can't fully concentrate.
This really hit home because women in abusive relationships are experiencing depression because of their living conditions.