Vulnerable populations, such as those with mental health disorders, may be at higher risk for domestic violence. Mental health patients may need extra help preventing or getting out of domestic violence situations.
A recent review looked at the rates of mental health disorders in people who have experienced domestic violence.
The researchers found that women with a depressive, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder were three to seven times more likely to have experienced domestic violence compared to women without mental health disorders.
The study's authors recommended increasing efforts to identify and reduce domestic violence experienced by people with mental health disorders.
Kaylee Trevillion, PhD, from the Section of Women’s Mental Health in the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London in the UK, led an investigation into mental health disorders in people who have been the targets of domestic violence.
For this review, researchers found 41 studies from multiple databases that involved people 16 years of age and older with a history of being the target of domestic violence. The studies also provided information on whether or not subjects had a mental health disorder and, if so, what type of disorder.
The researchers found that women with depressive disorders were almost three times more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence than women without mental health disorders.
Women with an anxiety disorder were four times more likely and women with post-traumatic stress disorder were seven times more likely to have experienced domestic violence compared to women without a disorder.
Other mental health disorders seen in the studies included obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders and bipolar disorder.
When researchers looked at each disorder separately, people with a mental health disorder were more likely than people without a mental health disorder to have experienced domestic violence.
The study authors concluded that having a mental health disorder increased the likelihood of being targets of domestic violence for both men and women.
Since this study was a review of multiple studies, each with its own specific limitations, many factors could not be taken into account. The researchers had no way of knowing if the participants had experienced abuse during childhood, the length of abusive relationships or the rates of domestic violence in same-sex relationships.
“The findings of this review highlight the need for healthcare professionals to recognize the increased vulnerability of men and women with mental disorders to domestic violence and to be prepared to identify and address these issues in treatment plans,” said authors.
The authors recommended further research on which interventions would work to reduce domestic violence experienced by men and women with mental health disorders, and how to best improve mental health after the abuse has ended.
This study was published in December in PLOS ONE.
The National Institute for Health Research provided funding for this study. Drs. Feder and Howard are members of the World Health Organization (WHO) Guideline Development Group on Policy and Practice Guidelines for responding to Violence Against Women and the NICE/SCIE Guideline Development Group on Preventing and Reducing Domestic Violence. No other conflicts of interest were reported.