Victimization and Depression

Victimization and DepressionAccording to the National Institute of Justice there were 16 million criminal victimizations in 2006, and adolescents were more likely to be victimized than other age groups. There are many ways people become victims. While the most commonly known and recognized is that of being the target of criminal actions such as theft, assault or rape, other forms of victimization include the following:

  • Peer victimization, or being the target of bullying or other aggressive behaviors by peers
  • Secondary victimization, or being blamed for being the victim of a crime
  • Revictimization, or being more likely to become a victim multiple times
  • Self-victimization, or using victimhood to manipulate others

Any form of victimization is traumatic and can trigger lasting physical and psychological effects.

Effects of Victimization

While victimization may include physical and obvious harm, the psychological effects are the most harmful and long lasting. The National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center lists the following responses to victimization:

  • Fear
  • Loss of control
  • Flashbacks
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Guilt
  • Negative self-image
  • Depression
  • Disrupted relationships

Depression is often a direct response to traumatic situations, and additional responses to victimization may also feed into depression. Victims may blame themselves or experience survivor’s guilt, and these attitudes feed into feelings of worthlessness and a loss of a sense of self. Disrupted relationships may increase feelings of isolation, a common aspect of depression.

Victims who do not seek help coping with the aftermath of crime may develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a disorder that includes aspects of depression such as irritability and feeling of detachment. Adolescents who experience peer victimization are at a greater risk for suicide ideation or attempts according to the April 2008 issue of Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior. Addressing mental health after experiencing victimization is essential to preventing or addressing depression and moving forward after traumatic experiences. Untreated depression and PTSD can lead to unhealthy coping through drug or alcohol use, loss of job or close personal connections and thoughts of or attempts at suicide.

Victimization, Depression and Addiction

While being a victim puts individuals at risk for depression and substance use, mental health issues and addiction also increase the likelihood that a person will become a victim. The Treatment Advocacy Center’s briefing paper on victimization (2007) reveals that a study in Seattle found up to 6% of women who were victims of sexual assault were already diagnosed with bipolar disorder or severe depression. While another study found more than a quarter of individuals with psychiatric disorders experienced violent victimization. The Treatment Advocacy Center further reports that, “substance abusers had significantly more episodes of violent victimization.” Mental health and substance use are closely tied to victimization, and the relationship can be causal, reactive or both.

Treatment for Victimization and Depression

Victimization and depression are so closely related that one cannot be treated without addressing the other. If these co-occurring concerns are accompanied by substance abuse, this issue must also be treated. Integrated mental health and addiction treatment will identify all underlying and related concerns and will provide the treatment needed for a full and lasting recovery. Call our toll-free helpline, and let our admissions coordinators connect you to the resources that will help you regain a healthy and stable life after victimization.