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Violence and Anxiety

Driving down the freeway yesterday we were startled by a sudden loud siren. Plowing down the shoulder of the road was a large black vehicle that looked like a combination tank and space ship. The traffic slowed and moved to the right while a long line of police cars sped by. A few minutes later, we heard the first news bulletins on the radio. A man was shooting employees at a local business. The big black vehicle contained a swat team.

Workplace violence has become all too familiar. The incident yesterday, like many, was an explosion of violence related to a domestic dispute. The children involved in this incident will be haunted by what happened forever. Following these events inevitably many stories will appear about how to recognize and prevent these tragedies from happening. Unfortunately domestic violence is a common occurrence that has a dark history sometimes supported by cultural norms.

Domestic abuse is experienced by both women and men (although more often women), in all age groups, among all social economic statuses, and across cultures. Abuse can be either physical or psychological and frequently involves both. Abusive partners often begin a relationship with enthusiasm and gradually become angry, have an outburst (or a series of them), followed by a honeymoon phase in which the abuser expresses sorrow with promises to change. These phases can last for long periods of time, even years.

Physical abuse involves punching, hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, or acting in a threatening way toward the partner or a loved one (child, relative, friend, or pet). Physical abuse can also involve reckless driving or other reckless, threatening acts. Emotional or psychological abuse can be harder to detect, but can cause incredible pain and hardship. The victims of psychological and physical abuse obviously suffer from acute and chronic anxiety.

Emotional or psychological abuse includes frequent criticism, humiliation, insults, or name calling. People who engage in emotional abuse try to isolate their partners from their families and friends. They blame their partners for their own problems. They often make all decisions such as how money is spent, what social activities are allowed, what religious organization to attend, how children are taken care of, where or how much the partner works, or even what and how medical care is accessed.

Victims of abuse often suffer from low self-esteem, powerlessness, anxiety, and depression. These emotional reactions sometimes decrease their ability to reach out to others. If you or someone you care about is a victim of abuse please get help. Domestic abuse is dangerous and destructive and sometimes even escalates to murder. Threats should not be taken lightly. Take care and be safe.

Violence and Anxiety

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D.

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of adults and children with obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as personality disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and learning disorders. Dr. Smith is a widely published author of articles and books to the profession and the public, including: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2E), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth, and Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be? Her website is:

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APA Reference
Smith, L. (2010). Violence and Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jul 2010
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