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How prevalent is domestic violence?

Domestic violence (also known as spouse abuse) is defined as physical assault within the home in which one spouse is repeatedly assaulted by the other. It has been estimated that domestic violence occurs in one of every four families in the United States. The surgeon general has identified pregnancy as a high-risk period for battering; 15 to 25 percent of pregnant women are physically abused while pregnant, and the abuse often results in birth defects. Also, pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to die from homicide than any other cause. Some husbands also experience abuse from their wives.  To report adult abuse in Florida, and to receive help, go to the Florida Department of Children and Families Adult Protective Services Hotline.

What are the reasons for domestic violence and abuse?

The perpetrators of domestic violence come from all races and socioeconomic levels and are most often male. Domestic violence most frequently occurs in families with problems of substance abuse, particularly alcohol and crack abuse. About 50 percent of battered wives grew up in violent homes and their most common trait is dependence. Abusive men are also likely to have come from violent homes where they witnessed wife-beating or were abused themselves as children.  Abusive husbands tend to be immature, dependent, and non-assertive and to suffer from strong feelings of inadequacy. The husband’s aggression is bullying behavior designed to humiliate their wives and to build up their own low self-esteem. Some men feel remorse and guilt after an episode of violent behavior and become particularly loving. If this behavior gives the wife hope, she remains until the next inevitable cycle of violence.

What are treatments for adult abuse?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) offers the most researched and effective approaches for treating adult victims of abuse. Exposure therapy is a variant of CBT that has been shown to help patients emotionally process the abuse by decreasing their fear of memories or cues of the event. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is another alternative treatment for the processing of distressing memories. These individual therapies may be supported with group psychotherapy, art therapy, dance and movement therapy, music theory, and body-oriented approaches if they proved beneficial to the patient.

Medication may be beneficial in certain circumstances to treat symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or psychosis. Although medication may be useful in symptom management, it should not be viewed as a replacement for psychotherapy focused on resolving symptoms of trauma.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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