Behind closed doors, in the quiet recesses of homes, and despite exterior smiles, there is a silent epidemic that not only damages the physical body but the very soul of the human spirit.  

It’s a darkness that does not manifest physically, this darkness casts a lengthy shadow over the lives of countless survivors as it festers deep within. 

The silent culprit is domestic abuse, and its insidious effects on mental health are an untold tragedy. 

Facts and Figures on Domestic Abuse and Mental Health 

Behind the lives of people who have or are experiencing domestic abuse, lies a complex web of emotions, thoughts, and fears. The emotional toll of domestic abuse is a heavy burden, one that often goes unnoticed and unspoken.  

As each day passes, survivors are subjected to an intricate dance of manipulation, degradation, and isolation. They are trapped in a vicious cycle of fear and uncertainty, their self-esteem eroded, their sense of self-worth diminished. 

Depression becomes their constant companion, gnawing away at them like a relentless predator. Anxiety tightens its grip, rendering even the most ordinary tasks fraught with dread.  

Survivors live in a perpetual state of hyperarousal, forever on guard, their nervous systems rewired by the trauma they endure. They suffer from sleep disturbances, nightmares that haunt their nights, and intrusive thoughts that plague their days. 

Chronic stress takes its toll, manifesting as physical ailments – headaches, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system. Self-harm, gambling and substance abuse , such as alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, can become desperate coping mechanisms, further deepening the abyss of despair.  

The Impact of Domestic Abuse on Mental Health: 

  1. Prevalence of Domestic Abuse: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experienced domestic abuse in their lifetime. (Source: WHO, “Violence Against Women Prevalence Estimates, 2018” and Mankind, “Research on Male Victims of Domestic abuse.) 
  2. Mental Health Consequences: A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that survivors of domestic abuse are three times more likely to suffer depression, anxiety or severe conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than other women. (Source: British Journal of Psychiatry.) 
  3. PTSD in Survivors: The National Centre for Domestic Violence reports that two thirds of survivors of domestic violence show symptoms of PTSD, indicating the severe psychological impact of the trauma. (Source: National Centre for Domestic Violence, “Domestic Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”) 
  4. Impact on Children: Children exposed to domestic abuse are at risk of developing mental health issues as well. According to UNICEF, witnessing violence between caregivers can lead to emotional and behavioural problems in children, including anxiety, depression, and aggression. (Source: UNICEF, “Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children”.) 
  5. Substance Abuse: Women who experience domestic abuse may turn to alcohol or substance abuse as a way to cope with the mental and physical impacts of the trauma. Research shows that women who have experienced abuse are twice as likely to have an alcohol problem than those who haven’t. (Source: Alcohol Change.) 

These facts and figures underscore the significant impact of domestic abuse on mental health, highlighting the urgent need for support, awareness, and resources for survivors.  

Silence is the greatest ally of domestic abuse, but by acknowledging its impact on mental health and taking decisive action, we can offer hope and healing to those who have suffered in silence for far too long. The scars may be invisible, but the pain is real, and it is time to confront it with compassion and understanding. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, worried about someone you know, or are concerned about the impact of your behaviour towards others, then help is available: or by telephoning 0800 69 49 999, between 8am – 8pm – 7 days a week. 

In an emergency you should always dial 999. If you are worried that an abuser may overhear your call you can remain silent, tap the phone and dial 55 when prompted by the operator who will send help. 

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can register with Once registered you will be able to send a text to 999 if you require help in an emergency. 

Stressed man

About this article

May 24, 2024

Michael Wallis

Advice and support

Children and young people