Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Migraine, and Understanding the Invisible Nature of Abuse
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While some people might not see a connection between domestic violence and migraine, it’s there, both as an explicit connection (with domestic violence increasing the risk of migraine) and as a more implicit connection. Domestic abuse, like migraine and chronic illness, is often invisible, and like many invisible illnesses it can affect people in specific ways.
Domestic abuse survivors – like those of us with chronic illness – are at a higher risk for anxiety disorders and depression than other people. This is likely due to the sense of isolation and alienation that often accompanies life with an invisible issue and the feelings of helplessness that often come hand in hand with chronic experiences we can’t control. Domestic abuse survivors, like chronic migraineurs, also are at an increased risk of suicide.
(Whether or not you are a domestic abuse survivor or a chronic migraineur, if you are feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless, please talk to someone right away. See below for resources on who to call.)
Domestic abuse survivors may also experience many other effects similar to those experienced by people living with invisible illness:
- Problems with sleep;
- Weight gain or loss;
- Problems at work;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Problems establishing or maintaining friendships;
- Low self-esteem;
- Feelings of guilt and/or embarrassment; and/or
- Difficulty confiding in people.
Some forms of domestic abuse are more visible, especially once they escalate. Invisible forms, however, such as emotional and financial abuse, can be just as devastating to those experiencing them. In fact, some research suggests that emotional abuse is a more potent trigger for chronic pain and chronic conditions like migraine than physical abuse.
Regardless of the form it takes – visible or invisible – domestic abuse takes its toll on survivors. If you know someone who may be experiencing domestic violence, reach out. If you are experiencing it yourself, please get help. You do not have to go through this alone. Just because others may not see what you are going through does not mean they don’t want to help.
Important note: The relationship between chronic illness and domestic violence runs both ways. People with chronic illnesses, especially mental illnesses and chronic pain are significantly more likely to experience domestic violence than are people without chronic conditions. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing abuse, please see the bulleted list in the first article listed above.
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