Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Among Midlife to Older Female Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

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Abstract

Objective: Survivors of intimate partner violence are exposed to prolonged and repeated trauma due to the methods of control associated with abuse, however, do not always seek help from trauma-focused service provision. Despite links between complex post-traumatic stress disorder and partner violence, research has not explored how symptoms may be presented within the stories of abuse and the clinical implications of this. The aim was to explore the narratives of intimate partner violence and uncover how aspects of complex post-traumatic stress disorder may be present. Method: The stories from thirteen women with a mean age of 52.3 years were explored using thematic analysis. Results: Across the survivors’ stories, four themes with associated sub-themes were uncovered: 1) difficulties in affect regulation, 2) belief systems that erode self-determination, 3) managing the threat response, and 4) difficulties in sustaining relationships. The findings suggest underlying symptoms of complex trauma were present. Presentations of symptoms associated with complex post-traumatic stress disorder demonstrates a need for therapeutic practitioners to be more aware of the prevalence of this for those who have experienced relational abuse and the implications for therapeutic interventions and engagement. Conclusions: Exploring traumatic experiences from the perspectives of survivors is an important way of understanding the impacts and consequences on the survivor and their adjustment beyond abuse, moving from a symptomatic lens to an approach of trauma journey exploration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Dec 2021

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