Challenges of Recognition of the Psychiatric Aspects of Intimate Partner Violence

Author(s): Achor JU, Ibekwe PC

Background: Even though intimate partner violence represents a major public health problem in Nigeria, much of its associated burden of psychiatric morbidity presenting in the clinical setting goes unrecognized and untreated. Objectives: The purpose of this paper is to clarify the psychiatric perspectives on intimate partner violence and highlight the barriers that militate against the detection of these problems in clinical contexts. Method: This paper utilized the framework of relevant case series and a focused review of the relevant literature to describe and annotate the psychiatric problems of the victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence in southeast Nigeria. Results: The major barriers to detection of the psychiatric disorders occurring in the context of intimate partner violence include patients’ feelings of shame, reticence about the abuse experiences in the clinical encounter, and cloaking of their emotional distress in somatic complaints. Also, the poor interviewing skills of many doctors and their difficulty in processing psychosocial matters contributes to the non-detection of psychiatric problems occurring in the context of partner violence. Conclusion: Concerted efforts directed towards the improved detection, treatment and/ or referral of patients presenting with these difficulties will enhance their wellbeing and quality of life.


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