Recovery from depressive symptoms, state anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in women exposed to physical and psychological, but not to psychological intimate partner violence alone: a longitudinal study.BMC Psychiatry. 2010 Nov 25; 10:98.BP
It is well established that intimate male partner violence (IPV) has a high impact on women's mental health. It is necessary to further investigate this impact longitudinally to assess the factors that contribute to its recovery or deterioration. The objective of this study was to assess the course of depressive, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and suicidal behavior over a three-year follow-up in female victims of IPV.
Women (n = 91) who participated in our previous cross-sectional study, and who had been either physically/psychologically (n = 33) or psychologically abused (n = 23) by their male partners, were evaluated three years later. A nonabused control group of women (n = 35) was included for comparison. Information about mental health status and lifestyle variables was obtained through face-to-face structured interviews.
Results of the follow-up study indicated that while women exposed to physical/psychological IPV recovered their mental health status with a significant decrease in depressive, anxiety and PTSD symptoms, no recovery occurred in women exposed to psychological IPV alone. The evolution of IPV was also different: while it continued across both time points in 65.21% of psychologically abused women, it continued in only 12.12% of physically/psychologically abused women while it was reduced to psychological IPV in 51.5%. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that cessation of physical IPV and perceived social support contributed to mental health recovery, while a high perception of lifetime events predicted the continuation of PTSD symptoms.
This study shows that the pattern of mental health recovery depends on the type of IPV that the women had been exposed to. While those experiencing physical/psychological IPV have a higher likelihood of undergoing a cessation or reduction of IPV over time and, therefore, could recover, women exposed to psychological IPV alone have a high probability of continued exposure to the same type of IPV with a low possibility of recovery. Thus, women exposed to psychological IPV alone need more help to escape from IPV and to recuperate their mental health. Longitudinal studies are needed to improve knowledge of factors promoting or impeding health recovery to guide the formulation of policy at individual, social and criminal justice levels.