Vulnerable and without protection: Lifetime experiences of abuse and its influence on mental ill health


Violence against women is a major global public health issue, and experiencing violence has substantial consequences for the lives of abused women. This study aims to illustrate experiences of abuse and its influence on mental ill health among women seeking general psychiatric care. Ten women seeking general psychiatric care in southern Sweden participated in a qualitative interview study. Content analysis resulted in four categories: Living in fear that persistently influences the substance of life, living with the sense of being worthless, living with a constant question about who you are and living between hope and despair. The theme evolving from the analysis was: Being vulnerable and without protection in a frightful reality that limits one’s possibilities of living and being the person one wishes to be. The results showed that the women described their mental ill health not only in terms of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation and self-harm, but also in relation to feelings of hope and despair, fear, worthlessness and living with a constant question about who they are. The abuse reduces freedom of action, and leads to feelings of insecurity, of not having any boundaries, isolation, and self-contempt and a need to escape. This study provides knowledge of abused women self-reported mental ill health in relation to abuse.

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Örmon, K. , Torstensson-Levander, M. , Sunnqvist, C. and Bahtsevani, C. (2014) Vulnerable and without protection: Lifetime experiences of abuse and its influence on mental ill health. Open Journal of Nursing, 4, 34-41. doi: 10.4236/ojn.2014.41006.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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