– Battered Person Syndrome [BPS], sometimes known as “ battered woman syndrome,” is a form of emotional trauma which has been intensely studied since 1970, when the first book on the subject appeared.

As I have read through the various lists of symptoms, cyclical dynamics, and aftereffects of BPS, I have noticed missing from these lists something I believe to be a common cause, not of BPS, but of its cyclical nature – at least within the purview of my own experience.

Before proceeding to discuss this observation and its possible impact, I will give a brief synopsis of the symptoms, cyclical states, and stages of recovery in BPS, at least in so far as the various sources seem to agree on the matter.

Causes and Symptoms:

BPS is the result of serious, long-term, physical and emotional violence – so serious, in fact, that it can sometimes result in permanent physical injury or even death. In the United States, 94% of the deaths resulting from domestic violence are women; the remaining 6% consists of men and children.

Typical symptoms of BPS, in alphabetical order, include:

– Avoiding situations reminiscent of the abuse
– Avoiding talking about abuse
– Believing that the partner knows everything
– Believing the abuse is deserved, or that the abuse is the victim’s fault
– Cyclically recurring abuse (see below)
– Difficulty sleeping, including nightmares and insomnia
– Erratic mood-swings with significant depression
– Fear for one’s life or the lives of one’s children
– Feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
– Having limited access to money, credit cards, or a car
– Hiding things, especially bruises or injuries; “hiding” includes lying about them
– High levels of anxiety, edginess; “jumping at one’s shadow”
– Idealizing the partner
– Learned helplessness
– Panic attacks or flashbacks
– Partner has a temper, is easily jealous, very possessive, or controlling
– Receiving otherwise unwarranted, extremely frequent calls from the partner
– Showing extreme changes in personality
– Withdrawing and making excuses for not seeing friends or family

Many of these symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], and most professionals regard BPS as a subcategory of PTSD.

Cyclical Dynamics of Disease Progression:

As with most diseases or syndromes, BPS progresses in stages, as follows:

The abuser will win over the victim, often moving quickly with tactics like grand romantic gestures or so-called “love bombing,” and pressuring for rapid commitment. In the literature, this stage is frequently known as the “honeymoon period”.
Next comes a period during which tension slowly builds and causes low-level conflict. The abuser may feel neglected or jealous or angry and may think that these feelings justify aggression toward the victim.
The abuser will be emotionally or physically abusive. This often starts small, like a slap instead of a punch, or punching the wall next to the victim.The abuser will feel guilty – swearing that it will never happen again, and once more being overtly romantic, in order to win back the victim.
There will be a temporary return to the “honeymoon” period, where the abuser is on best-behavior, during which period the partner will be lured into thinking that things really will be different.
Tension gradually builds, and the cycle starts all over again.
On average, a survivor will leave an abuser 8 times before leaving once-and-for-all [6], a fact which highlights the cyclical nature of BPS.

Note that not all victims are survivors. The cyclical dimensions of BPS seem extremely familiar, not unlike a form of substance abuse or behavioral addiction (e.g., gambling); however, nowhere in the literature have I seen any suggestion that the cyclical dynamics of BPS should qualify as a form of addiction.

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