The Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Addiction

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According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Family and domestic violence is a common problem in the United States, affecting an estimated 10 million people every year; as many as one in four women and one in nine men are victims of domestic violence.”[1]

Experiencing domestic violence of any sort is traumatic, often leading to lasting mental and emotional effects. Because of this, domestic violence is often linked to substance abuse and addiction. In some cases, individuals who have experienced domestic violence have turned to substances to cope. However, substance abuse is often present before and during instances of domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

Individuals who have experienced domestic violence and substance abuse should always attend professional dual diagnosis addiction treatment. These kinds of programs can address their specific needs in regard to trauma, privacy, and recovery.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is described as a pattern of behavior that is intended to gain and maintain control or power over an intimate partner. Domestic violence is often referred to as intimate partner violence or domestic abuse. While many people view domestic violence as a physical action, this is not always the case. Domestic abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or psychological. In other words, anything an individual routinely does in malice to control or overpower their partner is known as domestic violence.

Typically, domestic abusers begin with small actions of abusive behavior. Oftentimes, the abusive behavior is covered up with seemingly caring and apologetic acts. They do this methodically, to slowly gain power over their partner. Over time, the abusive behavior becomes more frequent, pronounced, and severe.

The signs of intimate partner violence include:[2]

  • Making someone feel like they cannot make decisions on their own
  • Undermining or putting down someone’s accomplishments
  • Embarrassing or making fun of someone in front of their friends and family
  • Using intimidation and threats to gain compliance
  • Making someone believe they are nothing without them
  • Treating a partner roughly by pushing, grabbing, or hitting them
  • Using drugs or alcohol as an excuse to hurt someone
  • Blaming their partner for how they feel or act (gaslighting)
  • Sexual pressure
  • Keeping someone away from their friends or family (isolating them)

How is Addiction Linked to Domestic Violence?

Unfortunately, domestic violence and addiction often come hand in hand. While individuals often argue whether addiction or domestic violence comes first, there is no right answer. Domestic violence may cause addiction, while substance abuse may lead to domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Leading to Addiction

When someone is experiencing an abusive relationship, they are often conditioned to believe that they deserve it. This is because of the psychological damage that has been inflicted on them. At the beginning of an abusive relationship, there is something referred to as “the honeymoon stage.” This is where the abuser showers their partner with love and affection, creating the facade of a perfect relationship.

Then, over time, the abuser slowly becomes less affectionate and more aggressive. They manipulate their partner into believing they have done something wrong to deserve this type of behavior. The abuser will begin to isolate their partner from the outside world, making the abusive relationship their entire existence. This causes the victim to feel hopeless and trapped. Additionally, the abusive partner makes the victim scared to leave.

This type of psychological abuse is excruciating to experience. It is a type of trauma that requires extensive therapy and professional treatment. Unfortunately, individuals struggling with an abusive relationship commonly are unable to access treatment. This leads them to turn to substances to cope with their emotions. Over time, they become addicted to the numbing effects of drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Leading to Domestic Violence

On the other hand, addiction often leads to domestic violence. This is because substances often cause the loss of inhibitions, leading to paranoid, aggressive, and violent behavior. For example, substances like stimulants often cause symptoms of extreme paranoia, aggression, and psychosis. During bouts of psychosis or paranoia, an individual may become abusive.

Research has indicated that 25-50% of men who committed intimate partner violence also suffer from addiction. Additionally, 80% of child abuse cases involve substance abuse.[3] 

Individuals suffering from addiction experience strong cravings for their drug of abuse. This often causes them to do anything they can to obtain their substance of choice. If something stands in their way, they may become aggravated and violent. In other words, individuals struggling with addiction may become irrational or violent within a relationship to ensure that their drug abuse is not interrupted.

Treatment for Domestic Violence and Addiction Survivors

Survivors of domestic violence and substance abuse must attend professional dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis addiction treatment is a type of substance abuse program that combines mental health and addiction treatment. These programs are highly beneficial for domestic abuse and addiction survivors, as their addictions are often caused by the abuse they suffered. Because of this, the effects of domestic abuse and their addiction must be treated simultaneously.

“While the nation is caught in the midst of an addiction epidemic, our addiction interventionists in Edison, New Jersey provide addiction interventions to Edison and surrounding areas. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and many people who have a substance use disorder will deny having any problem with drugs or alcohol. However, friends and family are always the first ones to notice when a loved one needs to go to rehab. That’s where our New Jersey addiction interventions come in. We provide services to people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction as well as their families.”

If you or a loved one need assistance finding a safe, confidential addiction treatment center, please give us a call today.



Medically Reviewed: January 11, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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