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Intimate Partner Abuse Screen




Identifying an Abusive Relationship - The Power of a Diagnosis in Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse

domestic violence consulting expert


By Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


The value of the diagnostic label has more to do with the way it impacts the person with the condition than anything else.

Can you remember a time in your life when you had a medical condition and you received a diagnosis that immediately lifted the weight off your shoulders and sent you to remedy your condition. My sense is the “propelling one into remedy” can happen no matter what the diagnosis. This is what I call the power of the label.


Before we give a specific condition a name, it is a vague cluster of symptoms that may or may not seem related. In the medical world, one may either self-diagnose or seek professional care to receive or substantiate a diagnosis, and from here obtain a definitive treatment plan.


The confusion in self-diagnosis when psychological denial is involved


When it comes to psychosocial conditions, diagnosis becomes even more clarifying and ultimately remedy starting, especially for conditions in which the defensive mechanism of denial plays such a large part. Here’s why.


The mechanism that supports the condition is not part of the determination of the condition. Consequently, the process of identification is not as likely to be sabotaged.


For example, as a domestic abuse survivor, we all know the power of rationalization. So let’s say we are looking at a laundry list of symptoms characterizing intimate partner violence. What happens?


We may say, oh yeah this is going on in my relationship and mentally check that item. Then go to the next and again see the second item alive in our relationship. And as each item looks familiar, a little light starts to go off saying I’m in an abusive relationship!


But quickly to the rescue is our psyche defense ready to serve and protect our ego. And it says, well he/she called me a “whore” because he was jealous of my receiving attention at the party last night.


And compounding his jealousy, making it express itself in this way, was his inward vulnerability in the moment…as I know he has been hurting over losing his job. (Look at the exquisite analysis, rationalization and justification in play here.)  


The value in diagnosing psychosocial conditions objectively


This is a common response to filling out a checklist or reading a laundry list of domestic abuse symptoms. Our defensive mechanisms that serve to protect us and our loved ones will more often than not keep us blind and confused. And of course with this, leaving us without direction for a remedy nor motivation to repair our circumstances.


I can’t stress the importance of putting the natural self-serving defenses to rest when you are seeking to know if you’re in an abusive relationship. Getting a definitive, objective diagnosis can put you in the “stop-guessing” mode and into the “start-treating” mode in moments.

For more information on how to diagnose an abusive relationship, visit Dr. Jeanne king, Ph.D. helps people properly identify intimate partner violence, and end and heal from domestic abuse.

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©Copyright 2008 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.