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Battered person syndrome
ICD-10 T74.1
ICD-9 995.81
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Battered person syndrome is a physical and psychological condition that is classified as ICD-9 code 995.81 "Battered person syndrome" NEC or otherwise included within DSM-IV as a sub-category of post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition has been used as a defence by women who have experienced long-term physical and psychological abuse, and have killed their abusers. This was called battered woman syndrome by Walker (1979).


ICD9 code 995.81 [1] shows the syndrome as including "battered person/man/spouse syndrome NEC" and any person presenting with identified physical descriptors rather than psychological descriptors falls under the general heading of "Adult physical abuse", classified under "Injury and Poisoning" [2]. In lay terms, this is a reference to any person who, because of constant and severe domestic violence usually involving physical abuse by a partner, becomes depressed and unable to take any independent action that would allow him or her to escape the abuse. The condition explains why abused people often do not seek assistance from others, fight their abuser, or leave the abusive situation. Sufferers have low self-esteem, and often believe that the abuse is their fault. Such persons usually refuse to press criminal charges against their abuser, and refuse all offers of help, often becoming aggressive or abusive to others who attempt to offer assistance.

Law and medicine intersection

Although the medical condition is not gender specific, the law has been persuaded to remedy perceived gender bias in the operation of the defence of self-defence by admitting evidence of the medical condition as the basis of an excuse (the "battered woman defence") for women who use excessive violence to escape from an abusive relationship and kill their abusers. This has been problematic because there is no consensus in the medical profession that such abuse results in a mental conditions severe enough to excuse alleged offenders. Nevertheless, the law makes reference to DSM-IV mental disorders even though neither the ICD nor the DSM medical classifications as currently drafted, include the syndrome in the sense used by lawyers.


  • Roth D. L. & Coles E. M. (1995). "Battered woman syndrome: a conceptual analysis of its status vis a vis DSM-IV mental disorders". Medicine and Law. Vol. 14(7-8): pp641-658.
  • Walker, Lenore E. (1979). The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row.

See also

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