Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, or DSM-V, 5th edition within many clusters of symptoms, i.e. persistent avoidance of situations/persons, intruding memory of event, as well as exposure or presence to a traumatizing event, within three months of the trauma.

Military veterans are the public face of community education about the effects of PTSD. The DSM-V utilizes different traumatic events besides war as the initial experience preceding symptoms of PTSD.

Domestic violence victims/survivors also experience PTSD symptoms. A heightened awareness of the ripple effects of this phenomenon on families, communities and society is needed.

Domestic violence includes physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse toward an intimate partner. South Carolina ranked No. 1 in 2013 in this category, and was in the top 10 previous years. The way legislators handle domestic violence is through legal means, yet social services for this population are limited and underfunded.

Many researchers examined the effects of domestic violence on the family. It can look like a child who has difficulty regulating emotional cues with peers and authority figures. It can lead to the abused individual remaining frozen in fear of revealing abusive periods in the home, often leading to secretive behavior with family, friends and co-workers.

These behaviors can be a direct response to PTSD symptoms. Domestic violence has been shown to decimate the family system through incarceration, family break-ups and/or possibly more trauma perpetrated on members within the family impacting parenting, employment and academic goals.

Many therapeutic techniques are shown to decrease PTSD symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, exposure therapy and medication have shown strong evidence in decreasing the effects of PTSD.

Individuals and families can access mental health services through public and private organizations. PTSD can be a debilitating disorder that erodes a person’s coping abilities to make healthy decisions for self and/or others.

Seeking professional help can be the beginning to a journey of hope and developing into a role model for one’s self and children.

Many domestic violence agencies provide a host of services, which can include mental health support for the person abused and/or the children.

Locally, the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons (803-649-0480) provides services to individuals and families that experience domestic violence, as well as other agencies under the South Carolina Coalitions Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Local private psychiatric agencies provide mental health services for individuals experiencing PTSD and networks with surrounding domestic violence agencies for other appropriate services outside mental health services.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence contact one of these local agencies or the domestic violence hotline.

Mary Woods is a licensed independent social worker-CP with a broad range of experience that includes working with individuals, couples and families. She is a therapist and the director of the Master-Level Internship and Clinical Fellowship Program. Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology from Augusta State University and a Master in Social Work from the University of South Carolina. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists.

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