How Trauma from Intimate Partner Violence, PTSD, and Depressive Disorder Affects the Human Brain

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1778 Words
Date:  2022-08-30


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological problem that is associated with a person recalls past experiences. Most people who have witnessed traumatic events such as murder are likely to experience distressing, upsetting or confusing moments after the ordeal. In most cases, the victims may take time before revealing these worrying psychological events. Some of the people likely to have this condition are victims of rape, sexual assault, emotional abuse, psychological torture, violence, airplane crash, hurricanes, war, and fire incidents among other mentally frustrating events. Some intimate relationship among couples can be characterized by violence. One partner may be subjected to intense psychological torture, physical assault, and rape. In the long run, the nasty experiences can lead to a PTSD which has a serious impact on the human brain. Langlois (2018) indicates that about 4.8 million women living in the U.S are exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) which involve physical assault and rape. On the other hand, approximately 2.9 men are victims of IPV through physical assault. This paper will delve on the impacts of intimate partner violence, PTSD and depressive disorder on the human brain.

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Intimate Partner Violence

According to Marques (2018), intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence can occur in different occasions and can be witnessed by people from different socio-economic classes, religions, culture, and ethnic background. Marques (2018) argues that in most cases women are the victims if this type of violence while the perpetrators are men. It is revealed that about 1/3 of women and 1/4 men have been victims of physical abuse in a relationship. About 15% of violent crimes can be associated with intimate partner-based violence.

In a relationship, a partner may be subjected to single or repeated instances of torture through beating or sexual assault. The experience may lead to extreme pain, nervousness or physical marks on the victim. In some occasions, a partner exposed to domestic violence may lack sources of refuge or friends to share such experiences. This magnifies the situation and presents mental distress shortly or several days after the violence. Trauma is often caused by the manner in which the perpetrator attack their partners. For instance, some partners may use physical aggression that may involve slapping, pushing or hitting their partners. Unpredictable change in mood, anger, and lack of rationality on minor details can also worsen the situation. In some cases, the victim's movement, finances and time management of a partner can be extremely constrained. Verbal threats and insults also aggravate the psychological torture during instances of violence. IPV can result in mood disorder, anxiety, and trauma, the feeling of shame, low self-esteem, reduced trust, and stress disorder.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2018), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013. This review included the element of trauma and stressor-related mental disorders. In this statistical manual, APA recognizes the fact that certain forms of stress can be caused by a stressor. The manual has eight criterion for the diagnosis of PTSD. In criterion A, a psychiatric focuses on establishing any sign of stressor which may include death threats and injuries that have been experienced through direct or indirect exposure. Criterion B focuses on intrusion symptoms. In this section, traumatic events are expected to reoccur through unwanted memories, flashbacks, nightmares, physical reactivity, and emotional distress after exposure. Criterion C relates to avoidance techniques must target trauma-related thoughts, feelings or external reminders. The aspect of negative alterations in cognition and mood are included in section D. Criterion E specifies the alteration in arousal as well as creativity; which is characterized by aggression, hypervigilance, quick reaction, destructive behavior and difficulty in sleeping. Criterion F addresses the element of the duration required for a condition to be characterized as PTSD. A patient may only be considered to have PTSD after experiencing the stipulated symptoms for a period exceeding one month. Criterion G specifies the functional significance of required symptoms that one needs to express to satisfy the diagnosis of PTSD. This includes functional impairment and distress that a previously traumatized couple exhibits. Exclusion is the final criterion which identifies the symptoms that do not qualify a condition to be recognized as PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The brain tends to store trauma details of different events after a partner has been exposed to IPV while in a relationship. With time, these events are relayed in the mind of the victim and tend to manifest as a real illness. One of the most conventional ways through which the PTSD occurs is a flashback. In some cases, a victim may remember an ordeal that happened in the past as if it were happening at the moment. The brain may also replay certain events while the victim is sleeping; through dreams and nightmares. This may lead to restlessness at night and at times lead to sleeping disorders. All these can be characterized into four critical PTSD symptoms as explained by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018).

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018), a victim of violence can re-experience ordeals whenever the brains are triggered to perform intrusive distress recollection, nightmares, and flashbacks. This means that the mind tends to actively replay the instances that frustrate an individual such as torture or insults. People who have experienced PTSD may develop emotional numbness, avoid places or people or activities that trigger certain memories associated with past trauma. Victims may develop negative alteration of social space by perceiving states in ways that can trigger anxiety or mood.

Effects of IPV

According to Hunnicut et al. (2017), survivors of IPV are likely to sustain Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). However, the researchers indicate that there is a need to conduct more studies to establish the relationship between IPV and TBI. A study conducted by Campbell et al. (2018) focused on female victims of IPV, their psychological and physical symptoms. Certain injuries to the head caused by hitting and strangulation can adversely affect the Central Nervous System (CNS). The study involved 901 women of African origin living in Baltimore and the Virgin Islands between the age of 18 and 55. It was revealed that victims who experienced TBI and IPV also exhibited CNS symptoms. Campbell et al. (2018) concluded that women who survive IPV are likely to express TBI. Smith and Holmes (2018) reveal that PTSD negatively affects the brain at different levels. PTSD can affect the ability of a victim to recognize stimuli and deteriorate the cognitive function. These symptoms closely resemble the those associated to TBI that include sensory, physical, and cognitive challenges.

The relations between the signs and symptoms exhibited by PTSD and TBI patients reveal the overlapping nature of the two situations related to IPV which are associated with brain functionality CITATION Jea18 \l 1033 (Langlois, 2018). Langlois (2018) proceeds to concur with other researchers by indicating that TBI resulting from IPV has been associated with behavioral and cognitive functions which are some of the fundamental roles of the brain. There is a possibility that victims can end up in a depression after IPV which reduces the victim's capacity to make a correct judgment while at the same time escalating the possibility of self-injury or suicide.

According to Smith and Holmes (2018) IPV is a serious public health concern that often involves physical assault. Some of the commonest impacts of IPV is brain injury and PTSD which has proven to be prevalent among women survivors. Smith and Holmes (2018) also explain that a change in the brain function can result from the external force on a victims head which affects the brain. The effects of such trauma can manifest in the form of dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and irritability among others. An IPV survivor with brain injuries may also experience instances of attention or memory loss, reduced brain processing speed or decision making as well as mood disorders. Physical brain damage can be investigated using the computerized tomography (CT) scan which can reveal, hematomas, contusions, and diffuse axonal injury. Smith and Holmes (2018) also indicate that not all forms of physical assault can lead to evident physical damages to the brain. This means that a physician may opt to use a comprehensive evaluation approach that may require interviewing of the patient.

In another study, Pitman et al. (2012) reveal that PTSD results from the interaction of neurotransmitters and neuroendocrinological elements. These two play a role in the development and profiling of symptoms or severity. Pitman et al. (2012) further reveal that the manifestation is dependent on both epigenetic and genetic factors. Underlying mental disorders may also aggravate PTSD, and the vice versa is also correct. Langlois (2018) also indicates that underlying aspects such as physical disability of IPV victims increase PTSD.

A unique study that was conducted by Twamley et al. (2009) revealed that PTSD contributes to neuropsychological impairment. This study focused on IPV victims who were assessed using a neuropsychological battery that prioritized executive functions that comprised switching, inhibition, and abstraction. This revealed a slower processing speed among people living with PTSD alongside dissociative symptoms and reduced reasoning ability. This study proofs that women subjected to IPV often experience PTSD which also affects the brain.


Both men and women can be victims of IPV, but different studies have revealed that the number of women exceeds that of men. It is evident that IPV can be perpetrated in the form of physical assault and may also involve verbal assault and psychological torture. This can lead to trauma and eventually culminate to PTSD. Different sources have indicated that both IPV and PTSD have an impact on the function of the brain. Reduced brain functioning that comprises of slow reasoning or decision-making process is associated with both IPV and PTSD. Both IPV and PTSD can lead to the development of TBI. Physical injuries on the brain can be detected using the CT scan technique. On the other hand, the DSM-5 manual can be adopted by a psychiatrist to assess PTSD. This manual focuses on the behavioral responses of an individual following a traumatizing event such as IPV. The details in the manual clearly show that PTSD has a serious impact on brain functioning.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2018). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved from

Campbell, J., Anderson, J., McFadgion, A., Gill, J., Zink, E., Patch, M., . . . Campbell, D. (2018). The effect of intimate partner violence and probable traumatic brain injury on central nervous system symptoms. Journal of Women's Health, 27(6),

Hunnicut, G., Lundgren, K., Murray, C., & Olson, L. (2017). The intersection of intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury: A call for interdisciplinary research. Journal of Family Violence, 32(5), 471-480. Doi: 10.1007/s10896-016-9854-7

Langlois, J. (2018). Breaking the silen...

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How Trauma from Intimate Partner Violence, PTSD, and Depressive Disorder Affects the Human Brain. (2022, Aug 30). Retrieved from

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