Physical Health and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence

Stephanie J. Woods, RN, PhD; Rosalie J. Hall, PhD; Jacquelyn C. Campbell, RN, PhD; Danielle M. Angott, BA


J Midwifery Womens Health. 2008;53(6):538-546. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

This correlational-predictive study addresses the associations between intimate partner violence (IPV) and physical health and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including: 1) detailed physical health symptoms reported and health care sought by women in intimate abusive relationships, 2) relationships between physical health symptoms, IPV, and PTSD, and 3) unique predictors of physical health symptoms. An ethnically diverse sample of 157 abused women was recruited from crisis shelters and the community. The women averaged almost 34 years of age and had been in the abusive relationship for slightly more than 5 years. The women experienced physical health symptoms falling into 4 groups: neuromuscular, stress, sleep, and gynecologic symptoms. Women experiencing more severe IPV reported more physical health and PTSD symptomatology. PTSD avoidance and threats of violence or risk of homicide uniquely predicted physical health. More than 75% of the women had sought treatment from a health care professional in the previous 9 months. Implications for practice are discussed.

As many as one in three women will experience some form of abuse from a family member or intimate partner during her lifetime.[1] Intimate partner violence (IPV) leads to serious physical health problems[2,3,4] and mental health consequences for abused women, including symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[5,6,7] This may explain observations of increased health care visits and costs among women who have experienced IPV.[8] This paper examines: 1) detailed physical health symptoms women experience in intimate abusive relationships and health care treatment sought, 2) relationships between groupings of physical health symptoms, IPV, and PTSD, and 3) unique predictors of physical health symptoms.


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