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Men Suffer PTSD, Depression from Domestic Abuse


Although women are usually associated with domestic abuse, men also are victims of this form of violence from their female partners. Results of two new studies report that male victims of domestic abuse suffer post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicidal thoughts, and other psychological trauma.

Domestic abuse affects men, too

It is a topic you don’t hear much about: men who are victims of abuse at the hands of their female partners. However, according to the National Violence against Women Survey, which surveyed 8,000 men and 8,000 women, approximately 8 percent of men report they have been physically or sexually abused by a current or former partner, compared with 25 percent of women who report similar abuse.

Two new studies report on the phenomenon of domestic abuse committed against men. One, led by Anna Randle, PsyD, reviewed two decades of research, including the abovenamed survey, into the effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) on men. She and her team evaluated the results of 16 studies, some of which involved men only and others that were mixed gender.

The investigators found that men experience “significant psychological symptoms as a result of IPV.” The associations identified included post traumatic stress, depression, and suicide ideation. These findings are important because it helps highlight the fact that both men and women can be victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence, which may prompt focused help for both groups.

Intimate partner violence includes four types of violent behavior that takes place between two people in a close relationship: physical abuse such as kicking, slapping, and punching; sexual abuse; threats of physical and/or sexual abuse; and emotional abuse such as controlling through manipulation and guilt, or shaming.

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Although research is limited, what’s available shows that male victims are just as likely to experience PTSD as female victims of domestic abuse. In addition, both physical violence and psychological abuse are equally associated with PTSD in male victims.

According to Randle, “Given the stigma surrounding this issue and the increased vulnerability of men in these abusive relationships, we as mental health experts should not ignore the need for more services for these men.”

Denise Hines, PhD, from Clark University, led an investigative team in the second study. A total of 822 men ages 18 to 59 were studied. One group of 302 men included individuals who had sought professional help after they experienced violence and controlling behavior from their female partners.

The second group consisted of 520 men selected at random to answer questions about their relationships during a phone survey. In this group, 16 percent reported they had experienced minor acts of violent and psychological abuse during arguments with their female partners.

Although the researchers noted there were associations between abuse and post traumatic stress symptoms in both groups of men, the men who had experienced the more violent behavior were at much greater risk of developing PTSD than were the men who experienced more minor acts of violence from their partners.

Hines pointed out that her study was the first to show that PTSD is a major problem among men who are victims of domestic abuse and who seek help. Overall, the findings of both studies show that men who are victims of domestic abuse experience serious psychological issues, including PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation. More focused research on male abuse victims is needed.

American Psychological Association
Hines DA, Douglas EM. Psychology of Men & Masculinity 2011; 12(2)
Randle AA, Graham CA. Psychology of Men & Masculinity 2011; 12(2)