Can you get PTSD From Spousal Abuse? The Shocking Truth

Can you get PTSD From Spousal Abuse?
How It Causes PTSD?
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Yes, it is indeed possible to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from spousal abuse. Spousal abuse, also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence, can have profound psychological impacts, including the development of PTSD.

Spousal abuse, a traumatic event, can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the intense fear, helplessness, or horror it instills. Victims of such abuse might experience recurrent distressing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks of the abuse, causing severe emotional distress and physical reactions.

Over time, this repeated psychological stress can manifest as PTSD, with victims avoiding reminders of the trauma, experiencing negative changes in mood or thinking, and heightened reactivity, a state of constant alertness for danger.

Physical Abuse:
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or injuries
- Frequent accidents or injuries
- Clothing that's inappropriate for the weather, possibly worn to cover up injuries
- Emotional and Psychological Abuse:
- Decreased self-esteem or confidence
- Signs of depression, anxiety, or PTSD
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Fearfulness or constant worry about pleasing their partner
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns

Behavioral Signs:
- The partner exhibits excessively controlling behavior
- The partner exhibits extreme jealousy or possessiveness
- Frequent arguments or tension between the partners
- The partner threatens violence or harm
- The victim seems afraid of their partner

Financial Abuse:
- The victim has limited access to money or financial resources
- The partner controls their spending or financial decisions
- The victim is not allowed to work or is sabotaged at work

- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)
- Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)

- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
- Anti-Anxiety medications
- Prazosin
- Support groups
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that can occur after experiencing a traumatic event. Many people think of PTSD as something that only happens to those who have served in the military or experienced a natural disaster, but it's also caused by spousal abuse.

In this article, we'll discuss how domestic violence can cause victims to develop PTSD and how to seek help if you or a family member is a victim.

We'll also discuss ways to cope with the effects of PTSD after experiencing spousal abuse.

Does Domestic Violence Cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence is any form of physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse that occurs between two people in an intimate relationship.[1]

Unfortunately, domestic violence can have a devastating impact on victims, leading to physical injuries, emotional trauma, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). [2]

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it's estimated that one in eleven Americans will be diagnosed with PTSD as a result of domestic violence. [3]

You can take this quick PTSD test to confirm if you have PTSD.

How Does Spousal Abuse Cause PTSD?

Spousal abuse causes PTSD

Spousal abuse can take many forms, including verbal insults, physical intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and financial exploitation. All of these can have a traumatizing effect on the victim. For many domestic violence survivors, the traumatic events may lead to the development of PTSD. [4]

Those who have complex PTSD may experience flashbacks, nightmares, extreme feelings of guilt or shame, panic attacks, and feelings of detachment from their loved ones. [5]

Furthermore, victims of an abusive relationship often suffer mental illness and psychological injuries, which can lead to severe depression, sudden inexplicable anger, and other mental health problems. [6]

It’s critical to recognize that PTSD is a serious condition and should be treated as such. With proper support and treatment, those affected by substance abuse disorders or by PTSD can begin their healing process and move forward with their lives.

Symptoms of PTSD from Spousal Abuse graphic

What Are The Symptoms of PTSD from Spousal Abuse?

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that may result from spousal or child abuse can vary depending on the severity of the abuse and the period it started. [5]

Generally, PTSD symptoms include trouble sleeping, emotional outbursts, feeling numb, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, and avoiding reminders of the traumatic experience. [5]

We have provided brief explanations to help people understand the specific symptoms they are experiencing.

What Treatments Are Available for PTSD After Spousal Abuse?

Therapy for PTSD patients

Domestic abuse victims can find several mental health resources online.

For example, an Online therapist specializing in treating mental illnesses can help you heal since they have the knowledge and experience.

You will receive the following treatment plan from a board-certified psychiatrist:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps you identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that lead to symptoms such as avoidance. As part of CBT, you can learn relaxation techniques and gradually expose yourself to distressing memories and situations. [7]
  2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE): EMDR involves identifying areas of distress in your life and then using eye movement or tapping to desensitize them. In PE, you practice facing feared situations or memories without avoidance or distress and talk about the traumatic event in a safe haven. [8]
  3. Medications: The psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications for PTSD. However, medications are not a cure-all, and they should always be used in combination with therapy. [5]
Domestic violence hotline

National Domestic Violence Hotline

If you're a victim or witness of domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and they'll listen and provide confidential help anytime.

If you've been affected by spousal or intimate partner abuse, you should seek help as soon as possible. You can be provided with a mental health professional who can help you work through the symptoms of PTSD, develop healthier coping skills, and live a more fulfilling life.


PTSD is a severe consequence of domestic violence. Victims of spousal abuse often suffer both physical abuse and mental trauma, with some cases leading to PTSD.

Victims of domestic violence need to seek help from trained mental health professionals that provide effective treatments for PTSD.

With the right kind of support and treatment, those with PTSD after spousal abuse can find healing and begin to move forward in their lives.


Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse?

The short answer is yes - emotional abuse can lead to PTSD.

Emotional abuse is a form of psychological abuse that can cause significant distress and anxiety.

It involves controlling behavior, manipulation, belittling, and criticizing. Over time, the effects of this kind of trauma can be severe and long-lasting

How long does PTSD from abuse last?

PTSD is an emotional disorder that can arise in individuals who have suffered from trauma. It can be caused by several different types of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Victims of intimate partner violence can experience PTSD symptoms for months or even years after the abuse has ended.


  1. What Is Domestic Abuse?
  2. The Connection Between Domestic Violence and PTSD
  3. What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
  4. Domestic Violence
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - Symptoms and causes
  6. Abuse, trauma, and mental health
  7. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
  8. EMDR vs Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Breaking Down the Similarities Of Acute Stress Disorder vs. PTSD

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Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are both reactions to scary or dangerous experiences, but they happen at different times.

ASD happens right after the event, lasting from a few days up to a month. People with ASD might feel scared, have bad dreams, or keep thinking about what happened.

PTSD lasts longer, often starting a month or more after the event. PTSD can cause similar feelings and problems as ASD, but it's more severe and can last for months, years, or even a lifetime.

- Physical or sexual assault
- Natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires)
- Combat exposure
- Terrorist attacks
- Serious accidents (e.g., car accidents, plane crashes)
- Life-threatening illness or injury
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Witnessing violence or death
- A sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one
- Traumatic childbirth experience

- Intrusive memories or flashbacks of the traumatic experiences
- Avoidance of places, people, or situations that may remind the person of the traumatic event
- Hyperarousal, or heightened sensitivity to potential danger or threat
- Hypervigilance, constantly scanning the environment for potential danger
- Feeling on edge or easily startled
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Negative thoughts or feelings, such as guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- Detachment or feeling emotionally numb
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

- Intrusive memories, thoughts, or flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Nightmares or recurring dreams about the traumatic event
- Avoidance of places, people, or situations that may remind the person of the traumatic event
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Hypervigilance or constantly being on guard for potential danger
- Easily startled or irritable
- Negative thoughts or feelings, such as guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- Detachment or feeling emotionally numb
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Physiological reactions, such as rapid heart rate or sweating, when reminded of the traumatic event
- Dissociative symptoms
- Hyperarousal symptoms

and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD); what's the real difference? Both terms often swirl around in discussions about trauma. But many get them mixed up. Let's clear the confusion. In this blog, we dive deep into both conditions.

We'll highlight their similarities. Why should you listen? Because understanding is key. It helps victims. It guides support systems. By the end, you'll grasp the nuances between Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD. Ready to embark on this enlightening journey? Let's get started.

A man with generalized anxiety disorder in a negative mood and a woman with social anxiety disorder exhibiting avoidance symptoms

How is acute stress disorder vs. PTSD similar?

ASD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are similar. This means they both happen when someone has a bad experience. Both of them have intrusive symptoms that make the person have bad thoughts, not want to do things, and be really anxious.

Both anxiety disorders can make it hard for people to carry on with their daily life. These disorders can also make it harder for people to enjoy life. [1]

Prevalence of Traumatic Events and PTSD

Many people face tough events in their lives. About 61% of men and 51% of women have gone through at least one.

But not everyone who goes through a tough event gets PTSD. Only about 8% of people do. Women (10.4%) get PTSD more often than men (5%). This means other things decide who gets PTSD after a tough event.[2]

Breaking the Stigma and Misconceptions Surrounding ASD and PTSD

Many people don't understand Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are wrong ideas and shame about these problems. It's important to correct these wrong ideas to help people with ASD or PTSD. Here are some common wrong ideas about them and how to fix them.

Misconception #1: ASD and PTSD only affect weak or fragile people.

Fact: Anyone can get ASD or PTSD. It doesn't matter how strong you are. Bad things like storms, accidents, fights, or violence can cause it.

Misconception #2: ASD and PTSD are signs of weakness or failure.

Fact: ASD and PTSD come from facing bad events. They are not because someone is weak or did something wrong. People with these problems didn't cause them.

Misconception #3: People with ASD or PTSD are dangerous or unpredictable.

Fact: People with ASD or PTSD are not automatically dangerous. Even if they are on edge or get upset easily, they aren't more violent than others without these problems.

Misconception #4: ASD and PTSD are rare conditions that only affect a small percentage of people.

Fact: A lot of people worldwide have ASD or PTSD. In the U.S., 8 million adults get PTSD each year. Many others have had hard times that could lead to ASD or PTSD. [13]

A woman suffering from PTSD

Overcoming Stigma and Misconceptions

To help people understand ASD and PTSD better, we need to show care, kindness, and knowledge. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Learn about ASD and PTSD: what they are, their signs, and how to help. Knowing more can help you be there for people who have them.
  2. Use Empathetic Language: Don't use mean words when talking about ASD or PTSD. Use kind and understanding words instead.
  3. Challenge Stigma and Misconceptions: Speak out against stigma and misconceptions about ASD and PTSD. Correct misinformation when you encounter it and challenge stereotypes and prejudices.
  4. Be a Supportive Listener: If you know someone with ASD or PTSD, listen to them. Don't judge. Be kind and tell them about ways they can get help.
  5. Advocate for Change: Push for rules that help people know more about ASD or PTSD. Get money and help for those with these problems. Join organizations that work to promote mental health and reduce stigma. [14]
A woman experiencing acute stress disorder

Causes of acute stress disorder & PTSD

When something scary or bad happens, our brain can get affected too. It makes us feel like we need to run away or fight. This can cause different physical and mental problems in people with anxiety, panic disorder or PTSD.

Traumatic events can cause both ASD and PTSD, including:

A table comparing the triggers of Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Triggers of acute stress disorder and PTSD

Acute stress disorder and PTSD symptoms

ASD and PTSD are a bit alike. The big difference is how long they last. ASD symptoms last from 3 days to a month. PTSD lasts more than a month.

Diagnosis of ASD and PTSD

ASD and PTSD are diagnoses made by a doctor who specializes in mental health. They are called psychiatrists or psychologists. The review may include an assessment of the individual's symptoms, medical history, and any past trauma.

The DSM-5 provides specific diagnostic criteria for both disorders. A mental health professional will use certain rules to decide if someone has ASD or PTSD. These rules help them know if the person meets the requirements for these conditions. [7] [8]

Treatment for ASD and PTSD



Self-Care activities

Coping strategies for ASD and PTSD


If you have trouble with ASD or PTSD, talk to mental health professionals who know about them. They can give you the right help.

Act fast if you have ASD or PTSD. Don't deal with it alone. Talk below and share your story. What you say can help others like you.


What is the difference between acute stress disorder and PTSD?

ASD is when someone feels scared for a short time after a bad event. PTSD is when that scared feeling lasts a long time, even years, after the event.

Is there a difference between the treatments for the two disorders?

Acute stress disorder and PTSD are two different things. They need different kinds of help. It is a good idea to talk to a mental health professional who can make a plan just for you.


  1. URMC: Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post Traumatic
  3. The Recovery Village: Acute Stress Disorder
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  5. Weill Cornell Medicine; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  6. The Recovery Village: Acute Stress Disorder
  8. Acute Stress Disorder - Alexander H. Jordan
  9. Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment
  10. Trends in Medication Prescribing in Patients With PTSD From 2009 to 2018: A National Veterans Administration Study
  11. How to Overcome Your PTSD Triggers - Red Oak Recovery
  12. How to Overcome Your PTSD Triggers - Red Oak Recovery
  13. Samsha: Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services

⚠️ Disclaimer: The content of this video is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Consult a qualified health professional for any medical concerns.