By | March 25, 2016 2 Comments

If you’re a domestic abuse survivor, a researcher wants to know about your experience

Hello. My name is Courtney Humeny and I am a PhD candidate in Cognitive Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I am carrying out an online study on survivors of romantic relationships with psychopathic partners. If you are interested in learning more please see the details below:

Who we are recruiting

The “Emotion, resilience, and post-traumatic growth in domestic abuse survivors” study investigates the outcome of being in an abusive romantic relationship.

We are looking for participants (aged over 18) who identify as being in a prior heterosexual abusive romantic relationship.

Abusive experiences may include verbal/ emotional abuse (i.e., bullying, manipulation), coercion (i.e., intimidation, threats, control of finances, isolation), lying and deceit (i.e., infidelities), and sexual assault. Particularly we are looking for people who identify as being abused by a romantic a partner who displays psychopathic or narcissistic characteristics. These may include:

  • Pathological lying (i.e., use of aliases)
  • Engaging in infidelities
  • Failure to take responsibility for their actions
  • Lacks empathy, guilt, and ability to feel deep emotions
  • Manipulative and exploitative of others
  • Sense of entitlement, grandiose sense of self-worth, or feelings of superiority
  • Involvement in criminal activities
  • Impulsive and irresponsible
  • Engages in risk taking behaviours (e.g., drug use)
  • Being superficially charming

What your participation will involve

If you are interested in participating in the study please follow the link, which is a secure website where you will be asked to make an account with a username and password (no personal or identifying information will be asked, such as your name or address). The study will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete. The website is not compatible with mobile devices or Ipads, please use a computer or laptop.

On the secure website, you will be asked to complete a few questionnaires, a card game where you will select decks to gain as many points as possible, and a task where you will be presented a series of images of male faces and asked what emotion they are expressing.

The questionnaires will include questions on your experiences of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, experiences of positive growth, and perceptions of interactions with other people (i.e., social support). There will also be questions addressing experiences in the abusive relationship (e.g., onset, type, severity, and length of abuse), and traits of the abuser, such as:

  • Does he or she think it is fun to push people until they get upset?
  • Has been convicted of a serious crime?
  • Does he or she think they can get what they want by telling people what they want to hear?

Please do not participate if”¦

  1. You identify as CURRENTLY in an abusive relationship. For your safety, we recommend that individuals currently in a relationship not participate in the current study. We worry for participants’ safety if they complete this study while in close physical proximity to their abuser.
  2. We ask if you are currently undergoing or have undergone treatment for a gambling problem that you do not participate because the card game is similar to a gambling game.

Some of the questionnaires may address stressful topics. If you wish to withdraw at any time (even skipping a few questions on the questionnaires), you may do so as the study is entirely voluntary and anonymous. There will be no penalization if you decide to withdraw, no matter at what point in the study. You do not have to complete all of the study at one time; you can stop and complete the study at your convenience. There is the possibility that participation in the study may trigger or exacerbate distress.


Participation in the current study is strictly voluntary (there will be no incentive or cash given for participation).

Access the study here:

Emotion, resilience, and post-traumatic growth in domestic abuse survivors

This study has been approved by the Carleton University Research Ethics Board-A (CUREB-A) (103670).

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Courtney Humeny, thank you for doing this important study. I just wanted to add a few things that you might not have thought about with domestic abuse victims while you are working towards your PHD.

For me right from the beginning of my relationship with my ex h I was incredibly stressed. He did not allow for any down time to relax or allow me to have a full night sleep and vacation were always none stop movement along with weekends. The daily gas lighting abuse and other abuse caused even more stress.

After I escaped my h (married for 12 years) I was lucky enough to have a friend direct me towards a hormonal specialist (endocrinologist) who tested me for cortisol levels, hormonal imbalance & vitamin/mineral deficiency. My test results were shocking to say the least everything was off the chart but it also explained clearly what continual stress such as a toxic relationship can do to your body, mind & spirit.

With the help of that doctor I began to research “adrenal fatigue” which was the true reason for my PTSD and the true reason why I could not find the door out of my abusive marriage for so long. I know that some doctors do not believe in “adrenal fatigue” but I can assure you it is real. There are plenty of doctors that are educated on adrenal fatigue. It is common for victims of abuse to end up with Addison’s disease.

During my marriage I was constantly sick…I had high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, memory loss, brain fog etc just to name a few. On another site the site creator ask the question if others had health issues during their relationship with a sociopath but none prior. Over 400 victims answered to post…and they listed their symptom as well. It was quite shocking to see in writing the similarities in health issues all brought on by the stress of the sociopath. Prior to being with my ex h I was never sick…literally only missed school when i had the chicken pox as a young child.

For me I was lucky enough to find a good hormonal specialist who tested me & then proceeded with vitamin such as b complex, d, c etc in massive dosages (4 times a day) (see adrenal fatigue. org) and also because of my test I was given progesterone pills. Within hours my anxiety level was half and within weeks I was 80% calmer and returning towards my old calm self & logical thinking.

Progesterone hormone is produced naturally by our bodies it is considered the natural relaxer hormone. With age and/or toxic stress such as a toxic relationship the bodies level of progesterone hormone is substantially reduced causing anxiety & depression.

The body adrenal glands which are located on top of both of our kidneys are incredible important but are often over looked by most doctors as the root cause of healthy issues especially not being able to handle any kind of stress.

The adrenal glands regulate our bodies blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol and adrenaline levels (fight, freeze or flight response mode) and over 50 hormones including estrogen, progesterone & testosterone The adrenal glands are a HUGE DEAL.

When the body is in a constant state of stress such as a toxic relationship the adrenal glands work over time and eventually become fatigue or if long term they quite working all together (addison disease).

Experts believe that most adults will suffer from adrenal fatigue sometime in their adult life because of many factors i.e. childhood stress on top of adult stress, poor eating habits, toxic relationship etc. Even babies can be born with adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue was discovered over 100 years ago. Now a days doctors do not discuss this issue with their patients because they are simply not educated enough instead they will write a Rx for drugs to calm someones nerves including victims of domestic abuse or a vicim may reach for a alcohol drink or illegal drugs to calm their anxiety levels. But this is only a band aid over a medical problem that can be cured if caught early. There are NO Rx drugs that will heal the adrenal glands. Simple R & R, good clean diet, plenty of sleep & reduced stress (i.e. removing the sociopath from your life) will heal the adrenal glands within 6 months to 2 years.

For me it took over 2 years to heal my adrenal glands.

Some sites for you to look at:

Drlam. com (look at the symptoms list & book)

Adrenal fatigue. org (look at the symptoms list & book)

Google “Dr Amen adrenal fatigue” (Dr Amen is a brain specialist who has a degree in Psychology and has conducted endless studies and written countless NY Times top books).

Also google “Dr Amen PBS you tube”, “Dr Amen Ted. com’

All of these things helped me heal. I think most doctors do not understand the correlation between Adrenal fatigue & PTSD. But this is the missing link for so many from Soldiers returning to war or a vicim of domestic abuse.

It should also be noted that our bodies will release high levels of cortisol during a breakup so for a victim of abuse that has had their body releasing constant high levels of cortisol this new release of cortisol hormone is quite frightening.

I think down the road if you could have another study by testing domestic abuse victims who have just left their abusers (from a shelter) you will find that they ALL have high levels of cortisol, imbalanced hormones, and vitamin/mineral defiance and if you can some how find the funding to get these victims the proper medical help from a adrenal fatigue expert you too will find the missing link for people to heal from PTSD.

Thank you for your time. Wish you all the best with your PHD & study.

Amazing that you are also in Ottawa. Is there anyway to participate in a more direct way?

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