One in three women worldwide experienced sexual or physical abuse at least once in their lifetime. Indeed, physical abuse is a common occurrence in children and adults alike. Being the victim of violent outbursts and behaviors is painful and incredibly difficult.
The impact of physical abuse goes beyond bruises on the skin; one’s mental health suffers a lot too. The consequences of this traumatic time in your life can be observed decades later. You can get better, cope with it more effectively, and improve your mental health through therapy.
While therapy for physical abuse is a major step forward, online counseling sessions are equally beneficial. Read further to learn more about this subject and how therapy can help you too.
What Is Physical Abuse?
Physical abuse is defined as any intentional act of causing bodily harm or injury to another person. Some physical abuse examples include slapping, hitting, shoving, kicking, choking, or punching another person.
Physical abuse’s definition also includes physical restraints or inappropriately using drugs. More precisely, the term physical abuse refers to any situation where someone deliberately hurts another individual or takes away control of their body.
In cases of physical abuse, the abuser attempts to control the victim in a relationship. Before things get physical, the abuser may first start with emotional abuse. Emotional and physical abuse often go hand in hand.
How to Tell if I’m Being Physically Abused
A person who is physically abused tends to have frequent bruises or physical injuries consistent with punching, hitting, and other violent acts. An abused person may have the following physical abuse signs:
- Black eyes
- Sprained wrists
- Bruises on arms and legs
- Purple or red marks on the neck
- Busted lips
- Broken bones
The abused person also experiences changes in behavior and may also have open wounds, punctures, cuts, and untreated injuries in different stages of healing. When the abuser uses medication as a “tool” of control, the physically abused person may experience substance overdose or withdrawal.
At first, many victims of physical abuse attempt to cover up their bruises with clothing. In fact, the abuser may prefer inflicting injuries in areas of the body that are usually covered, such as the arms, legs, back, and stomach.
For instance, you may find yourself wearing long sleeves even in spring and summer when the weather is warm. Wearing sunglasses inside or overdoing it with makeup are also some common attempts through which a victim tries to hide the signs of abuse.
If you find your situation to fit any of these, this is a cause for alarm, and you are in need of help.
Do I Need Therapy for Physical Abuse?
Physical abuse of any kind has an enormous impact on the victim’s physical and mental health and well-being. For example, one study found that childhood physical abuse predicted worse physical and mental health decades after the abuse.
Another study found that 27.7% of female subjects and 18.9% of male subjects experienced poor psychological health after physical abuse. While men were mainly violated in public places, the most commonplace physical abuse among women was at home. Female victims of physical abuse were more likely to have mental health problems.
Evidence also shows that victims of physical abuse also show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. They are also at a higher risk of anxiety, fear, drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide.
Dealing with the consequences of physical abuse isn’t easy, and no one should go through it on their own. Professional help in the form of psychotherapy is crucial for coping with the aftermath of abuse and being able to recover psychologically.
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How Does Therapy for Physical Abuse Work?
Therapy for physical abuse works by creating a safe space where the victim has encouragement and freedom to express themselves. It’s important to keep in mind not everyone is ready to admit they are a victim of physical abuse immediately. Acknowledging this can be a work in progress.
Whether you are ready to acknowledge what happened or feel like you first need an established safe space where you can talk about the problems you’re experiencing, therapy can be beneficial.
It’s important for abuse victims to know that they have a safe space where they can talk without feeling judged or threatened by anyone. In fact, therapy can help victims of physical abuse break the cycle. The therapist listens to everything you have to say, builds a strong therapeutic relationship, and helps you cope with trauma more effectively.
During therapy for physical abuse, you can improve your mental health and overcome the trauma inflicted on you by your abuser.
Each victim has a different story and experiences abuse and its aftermath differently. Therapy for physical abuse is client-centric and provides the individual skills needed to overcome the trauma of abuse. How to stop physical abuse is a difficult question to answer, but how to recover from it – therapy can provide the answer. The most common form of therapy for physical abuse is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps clients identify negative patterns of thoughts and behavior in order to adopt healthier, more positive alternatives. Evidence shows that CBT is effective for clients with a complex history of trauma. Additionally, trauma-focused CBT in individual sessions is an effective treatment for PTSD in physical abuse survivors.
One of the main goals of CBT for physical abuse victims is to break the cycle where the client believes they deserve the abusive treatment. Many victims of physical abuse have been “groomed” to accept their situation, as abusers use emotional manipulation to make them believe it’s their own fault.
CBT isn’t necessarily about feeling better per se; this type of therapy for physical abuse is mainly about identifying unhealthy behaviors, actions, and thoughts so that you can take the necessary steps to change them.
For instance, if your spouse is physically abusing you and making you feel “lesser” in any way, CBT can help you understand your worth and equip you with the skills needed to cope with this situation in a healthy manner. These coping mechanisms give you the power and confidence to deal with your situation, stand up to your abuser, and be able to recover from the trauma.
Is Online Therapy for Physical Abuse Effective?
These days, online therapy for physical abuse is available for anyone anywhere, and the best news is that it's equally effective in helping you recover and teaching you how to deal with physical abuse.
One study found that internet-based treatment for PTSD can lead to significant improvement in symptoms and reduce the risk of other mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. These effects persisted even three months after the study period.
Indeed, online therapy is a convenient way to get help. The reasons to give online counseling a chance are numerous, and the most important one is practicality. With online counseling, you don't have to leave your home or office; you just need an app on your phone and an internet connection.
Besides practicality, online therapy is more affordable and allows you to stay anonymous if you prefer. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to find the best therapist nearby, you can get matched to the most suitable therapist for you, no matter how far away they are.
Some people feel more comfortable talking about a traumatic experience, such as abuse, from the safety of their home. If you are such a person, online therapy is for you.
Physical abuse is unfortunately all too common, and its consequences are severe. Marks of physical abuse aren't just limited to a black eye or a bruise on your arm – they are also psychological. Mental health problems resulting from the trauma of physical abuse persist decades after it occurs.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get the much-needed help you need and deserve, have a safe space to process your experience and emotions, improve your confidence and mental health, and cope with this traumatic experience more effectively.
Both in-person and online counseling are effective ways of dealing with the aftermath of physical abuse and recovering from it.