There’s no denying it: we live in very stressful times. When the pressure is on, we may respond in ways we would not otherwise. Financial stress, in particular, can be especially overwhelming in this day and age. For many individuals, especially those who may struggle with anger issues, this can unfortunately increase the risk of aggression.
Perhaps you’ve struggled lately under the weight of stress. Maybe it got the better of you, and you took it out on your spouse or partner. Maybe things got physical, and you’re now charged with domestic battery–or maybe your partner legitimately felt threatened and became fearful that you would harm them. If you’re now facing charges of domestic violence, the first step in righting the situation is to understand what happened and how you might prevent a recurrence. Let’s take a closer look at the role of stress in general–and financial strain, in particular–on the risk of domestic violence in families.
The Prevalence of Stress
The first thing to know is that if you have been dealing with excessive stress, you’re not alone. Stress is indeed a shared experience, especially in modern times. Consider the following statistics based on recent research:
- 84 percent of Americans reported feeling stress on a weekly basis in 2022, up from 78 percent the year before.
- 37 percent of Americans claim they feel so stressed they cannot function.
Between rampant inflation and overall fears about the future, it’s little wonder that so many of us are on edge–and the sad reality is that sometimes that stress can trigger violent, angry outbursts, especially if we’re already prone to anger and caught off guard.
How Stress Affects Us
Humans are designed to deal with a certain stress level, especially in short bursts. Stress triggers what we call the “fight or flight” instinct: the body releases hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, which heighten our awareness, raise our blood pressure, and give us a burst of energy so we can “fight or flee” perceived threats. But when stress remains constant without waning (as in the case of financial stress), it can have unexpected consequences on our bodies and minds.
Stress can significantly impact our minds and emotions when it becomes overwhelming. It acts like a domino effect, starting with our thoughts and gradually permeating our feelings. Under high levels of stress, the mind often enters a state of hyperarousal, where it’s constantly alert and on edge. This can lead to difficulties in concentration, memory problems, and intrusive thoughts, creating a mental fog that makes everyday tasks seem daunting. Emotionally, stress can trigger a range of responses, including anxiety, irritability, sadness, or even feelings of numbness. It can make us feel disconnected from our own emotions or overly sensitive to the emotions of others. And for those who may already struggle with anger management issues, heightened stress adds fuel to the fire.
The Role of Stress in Domestic Violence
Studies have shown that heightened stress is a very common risk factor in domestic violence. “Evidence suggests that stressed couples also tend to be aggressive couples,” one study says. High levels of stress can lead to feelings of frustration and anger, which, in turn, can exacerbate existing conflicts within a relationship. For instance, an argument about a minor issue can escalate into a heated confrontation under extreme stress. It’s important to note that stress does not cause domestic violence, but it may increase the likelihood of violent incidents in already volatile situations.
Financial Strain as a Trigger for Domestic Violence
Financial issues represent a significant stressor that can potentially contribute to domestic violence. Financial strain can lead to feelings of inadequacy, fear, and hopelessness, which can sometimes manifest as aggression towards a partner. It’s not uncommon for domestic violence rates to increase proportionately to the unemployment rate. Again, studies have indicated that the rate of domestic violence among couples under financial strain is about 9.5 percent–compared to only 2.7 percent of couples who are not feeling financial strain.
Coping Mechanisms and Resources
If you believe that heightened stress or financial problems may have led to your current domestic violence charges, we should emphasize first that these factors can’t be used as a justification or excuse for violent behavior, especially not in court. That said, understanding how you got here is the first step in keeping it from happening again. Prevention is always better than cure, so let’s discuss some practical tips for coping with heightened stress constructively.
- Recognize Your Stressors: Whether it’s finances or something else, once you identify your stressors, you can develop strategies to mitigate them or at least avoid situations where you could be triggered.
- Learn De-escalation Techniques: Learn when to walk away from an argument with your significant other before things get physical. Create space and give yourself time to cool off.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can significantly impact your stress levels. Try to incorporate these into your daily routine.
- Utilize Stress-Relieving Techniques: Engage in activities that help you relax and unwind. Examples might include yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or even a day off to go fishing. These techniques can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Seek Professional Help: If stress becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can provide you with effective tools and techniques to manage stress.
Understanding the effects of stress can help prevent future domestic violence incidents. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are dealing with current domestic violence charges, you need a skilled, compassionate attorney to help you navigate what’s ahead. We can often work with prosecutors to introduce mitigating factors, negotiate for reduced charges, or even get the charges dismissed. Call our offices to schedule a consultation.