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Ten Healthcare Consequences Resulting from "Psychological Battering"

By Ellen Taliaferro, MD, FACEP, Health After Trauma, on 04/104

Until the last few years, little research focused on the health consequences of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)—especially those stemming from non-injury abuse. What research did exist, for the most part, focused on the consequences of injuries of past physical abuse. Health consequences of long-term psychological abuse were ignored.

In 2000, Dr. Ann Coker and colleagues published the results of their survey of 1152 women seeking medical care from family medicine clinics. These researchers discovered that 53.6% of these women had experienced some type of IPV in their lifetime. For most, the abuse was experienced around the age of 22. What distinguished the findings from previous research is that they examined psychological abuse as well as physical abuse. They found that 13.6% of the women surveyed experienced psychological IPV without any form of physical IPV.

Psychological violence is defined as psychological battering or emotional abuse. It is characterized by the victims’ continuous feelings of susceptibility to danger, loss of power and control, and entrapment.

Dr. Coker and her colleagues found that when compared to women who never experienced IPV, women who experienced psychological IPV were significantly more likely to report their physical and mental health to be poor. They also reported ten adverse health outcomes arising from their psychological battering:

  1. Disability preventing work
  2. Arthritis
  3. Chronic pain
  4. Migraine and other frequent headaches
  5. Onset of stammering
  6. Sexually transmitted infections
  7. Chronic pelvic pain
  8. Stomach ulcers
  9. Spastic colon (irritable bowel syndrome)
  10. Frequent indigestion, diarrhea or constipation.

Coker found psychological IPV to be as strongly associated with the majority of adverse health outcomes as was physical IPV. Another significant finding was that 87.5% of women who reported abuse of any kind were in only one relationship characterized by IPV.

Dr. Coker’s subsequent research has indicated that social support may modify the effect of IPV on health. This underscores the important role of the survivor advocates and professionals who care for and support victims of IPV.

Link to original article

Copyright 2005 Ellen Taliaferro, MD. “Written by Ellen Taliaferro, MD, author, speaker, and expert witness. Dr T can be contacted through .” A copy of your reprint or publication would be appreciated.