The impact of stalking
Stalking can take a devastating toll on victims physically, psychologically and emotionally
Stalking has a terrible impact on victims, leaving them traumatised for weeks, months and even years. This can be the primary goal of a stalker. Other offenders are oblivious to the feelings of the person they’re targeting and are only focused on their own motivations and needs.
Anyone on the receiving end of unwanted and repeated attention is likely to feel anxiety and concern. However, the accumulated effect over time can have a severe impact on a victim’s psychological, physical and financial health. A recent Scottish Government survey* asked people who had been stalked what impact it had on them:
94% said they made changes to their life or work patterns
53% said they changed or left jobs
39% said they moved home
83% reported increased anxiety
75% felt powerless
74% had experienced disrupted sleep
55% said they suffered fatigue
55% had flashbacks and intrusive thoughts
24% had suicidal thoughts.
* Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2018
Because they have little control over the stalker’s behaviour, victims often feel helpless. They experience fear and extreme stress, worrying over not only about what is currently happening but also what might happen next and how the stalking will end.
People being targeted often report chronic stress and anxiety, periods of low mood and depression. In some cases, victims can experience symptoms associated with trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s not uncommon for victims to become so fearful they don’t feel safe leaving their home. Victims talk about a loss of trust, great strain being placed on relationships with their partner, friends and work colleagues. This can result in feeling isolated. They often blame themselves, feeling humiliated and guilty that somehow they are responsible for the stalker’s actions.
Living with high levels of stress over days, weeks and months can also have an impact on physical health, including disturbed sleep, fatigue, stomach problems, headaches, migraines, poor concentration and other physical symptoms.
In an attempt to cope, people being stalked sometimes adopt unhealthy or self-harming behaviours like taking up smoking (or increasing cigarette use), abusing alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs and, in some cases, they have suicidal thoughts.
Being stalked can carry a high price. Victims have talked about its negative influence on work performance, time keeping, sick leave, with a resulting impact on their career. People become preoccupied, display poor concentration and have reported an inability to focus. Some victims have lost their job as a result, while others change careers or leave their workplace.
People can only feel safe by moving house or relocating to another town or city. Victims report doing everything they can to increase their safety, installing CCTV, increasing the security around their house, changing doors and locks at significant cost.
If you think you’re being stalked by someone, go to the Home to report page for more information.