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Symptoms of Domestic Abuse and Depression Are the Same

Domestic abuse and depression share many symptoms. It's difficult to unwrap symptoms of depression from those of domestic abuse. Do these symptoms sound familiar?

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

Blogging for Mental Health 2012The 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.

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Author: kholly

Kellie Jo Holly advocates for domestic violence and abuse awareness through her writing. You can find Kellie Jo on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

39 thoughts on “Symptoms of Domestic Abuse and Depression Are the Same”

  1. This entire website, page after page, has kept me going the past 2 weeks. As a man I can confirm that everything written in here is not gender specific. My wife verbally and emotionally beats me down on a regular basis. The abuse is real.
    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.

  2. I just got out of a 22 year old marriage that was abusive from the day I got into it. He was just working hard trying to mask the control that he wanted to take from me. Once I got pregnant with our daughter, he then started the process. Whenever my family came around he was happy to see them the first day they came, but on the 2nd day he was not speaking to anyone because they were taking up too much of my time. He would tell me what they were not doing around the house as though they came to work instead of visit. He consistently put me down, no matter what I did it was never enough. I cooked, cleaned, wash, work the farm chicken houses everyday, cut grass every week, grew a garden, picked it and put away veggies and did honey. It wasn’t enough. He would put me down, call me witch, bitch, ulgy, stupid, told me no other person would ever want me. He put nair remover in my shampoo and my hair fell out. I could go on, he spit in my face, sexually he said he did not want to touch me anymore. If I was tired I wasn’t able to take a nap in my own home. He would hit, put guns to my head and tell me I was nothing, a nobody. He wanted me to do what he wanted, if I found a job, he wanted me to quit it, If I didn’t have a job, he would tell me I needed to go get a f____kin job if I need anything. I now have panic attacks, depressed, cry about lots, I finally after a year and a half got a divorce I left my job and my home to get away from him relocated back to Georgia, and am struggling trying to find employment. I don’t have health insurance, and I need help getting back on my feet and counseling to get thru all of this. I am staying with a family member who bought my previous home that I have terrible memories in, I do feel blessed that she is allowing me to stay, but I need to get back on my feet to move away from those memories.

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      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 The Georgia Coalition of Domestic Violence 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.

  3. Thank you Katie , I am so depressed . I have lived with my abuser on and off for 13 years to long . Its so hard to leave and build my life over it seems like it’s impossible . Like I am to damaged from to much trauma and depression . I don’t have alot of friend or family for encouragement. I look at life with such gloom . I just watch my abuser get richer and stronger . Why am sitting here getting angrier and more depressed . This no joke . It’s sick and I have no way out of hope it seems..

  4. This article is very helpful, thank you. I am currently experiencing very difficult circumstances and am trying to find the courage to make a doctors appointment.

    1. Katie, Thanks for reaching out! I’m sorry you’re going through a tough time. I hope you muster that courage! Reaching out to people that can help you, like a doctor, is usually a great thing to do for yourself. It’s a step in the direction toward getting better, and it’s an act of self-love. Hang in there, Katie. Thanks again, Emily

  5. I was abused since i was four and now im scarred of most people thats why i dont talk alot because im afraid if i say the wrong thing that someone will hurt me im only eleven and im scared of my mother.

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