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Follow-Up Study of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression in Australian Victims of Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 16 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2001 Pages: 645-654
Peter Mertin; Philip B. Mohr
Date Published
December 2001
10 pages
This article focuses on the recovery and outcome of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over time.
This study followed up a group of women who had all been residents in women’s shelters at the time of initial assessment. It had two aims: (1) to identify the incidence of PTSD at the time of initial assessment and at follow-up 12 months later; and (2) to examine the relationship of variables such as ongoing abuse and intimidation, predictability of and control over the violence, and the presence of social supports, to the incidence of PTSD and levels of anxiety and depression at follow-up. Participants consisted of 59 women who maintained contact with one of a number of metropolitan women’s shelters in Adelaide, South Australia over a period of at least 12 months. Results found a significant reduction in the number of women meeting full diagnostic criteria for PTSD at 12-month follow-up. Whereas 14 percent of women still qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, a substantial number of women remained at the sub-threshold level and continued to be affected by a range of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). More than one third of women reported conscious efforts to avoid thoughts and feelings associated with the abuse, and a similar proportion experienced difficulty falling or staying asleep. Approximately one quarter of women reported recurrent and distressing thoughts, distressing dreams, difficulty concentrating, and hypervigilance. The range of reported PTSS was an indication of the continuing effects of abuse in this population, regardless of the significant reduction in full PTSD cases. An important indicator of the presence of PTSD at follow-up was the safety of the woman once separation from the spouse/partner had occurred. Results also pointed to the significance of adequate social support, particularly as a contributing factor in the resolution of concomitant depression. A better knowledge of outcome, together with an understanding of factors promoting or impeding recovery, should guide the formulation of policies shaping interventions at the individual, social, and criminal justice levels. 2 tables, 33 references