Doc Talk: Physical or emotional abuse can make health problems worse

08/26/2013 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:18 AM

While it may not seem like a medical matter, it is important for your physician to know if you are experiencing physical or emotional abuse in your daily life.

Many health problems can be made worse by physical violence and emotional abuse. Asthma, diabetes, migraine headaches, high blood pressure, depression and insomnia all get worse with the natural “stress hormone” elevation that occurs when someone is placed in dangerous or threatening situations. Physical injuries caused by beatings or restraints can range from minor to crippling. Typically, once physical violence becomes a pattern, it is likely to escalate. If your partner has threatened you with a knife or a gun, or attempted to strangle you, the violence has escalated to a very dangerous level.

The World Health Organization recently published guidelines which provide evidence-based recommendations for health care providers whose patients experience intimate partner violence. The recommendations include screening for violence in patients whose medical problems may be aggravated by violence and offering immediate support in a way that improves the safety of the woman and her children. The language from the health organization focuses on women as victims, but men can also be victims. Violence occurs in same-sex relationships as well as in heterosexual relationships.

No one deserves to be abused. Violence is never the victim’s fault. While it might seem easy to tell victims, “You should leave that situation right now,” there are often reasons or barriers that keep a victim from leaving. It is important to understand that the risk of serious injury may increase as someone prepares to leave a violent relationship. However, even if the victim isn’t ready to leave the relationship or chooses not to leave the relationship, there are services that can help.

Wichita has great organizations that offer safety planning, counseling, empowerment-based support, and shelter if necessary. The YWCA Women’s Crisis Center and Catholic Charities Harbor House have advocates trained to help victims cope with the impact of the violence in their lives and explore options for moving forward.

For more information, contact the YWCA Women’s Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline at 316-267-SAFE (7233) or the Harbor House 24-hour hotline at 316-263-6000.

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