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Domestic violence may raise women's risk of mental illness

People should feel comfortable in their own homes. But when a spouse is prone to violence, it can change entire lifestyles. And, not surprisingly, the repercussions can be serious. A new study suggests that domestic violence raises women's risk of future mental health disorders.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the development of mental illness is far more likely in women who experience intimate-partner violence, rape, sexual assault and stalking, than women who do not.

The study took a look at women in Australia between the ages of 16 and 85. 27 percent of the women had at least one episode of abuse - incidents of sexual assault, gender-based violence or stalking. Of those women, a whopping 57 percent had a history of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress or bipolar disorder. That compares with 28 percent of the women who did not experience violent or traumatic episodes.

According to the Huffington Post, it was even worse for women who experienced at least three types of violence. 89 percent of those women suffered from some sort of mental disorder or substance abuse.

It's not exactly surprising that domestic violence, rape and other gender-based violence have this effect. But the study illuminates the need for understanding when it comes to women's potentially violent histories. Physicians and therapists treating women suffering from mental illnesses tend to ask about a history of violence, and this new study suggests that practice is more important than ever.

Experts stress the need for mental health specialists to streamline the approach to treating women who have experienced violence. Hopefully it can lead to more effective treatment.

Source: Huffington Post, "Sexual assault and domestic violence raise women's mental disorder risk: study," Aug. 3, 2011

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