Published on May 3, 2023

How Getting Arrested Affects One’s Mental Health

by Psych Times Staff

Getting arrested is often a traumatic experience that impacts a person’s mental health and well-being. According to the criminal defense attorneys at Patituce & Associates, “Being arrested can be a frightening experience.” Aside from facing prison, jail, and the loss of one’s reputation, the impact of getting arrested can take a toll on a person’s mental health. The severity of the impact can increase if the individual was wrongly accused or experienced mistreatment. It’s important to acknowledge the mental health toll being arrested takes on individuals as well as take steps to address them.

The Trauma of Being Arrested

Getting arrested can be a traumatic event that can trigger a fight-or-flight response. The individual may feel helpless, powerless, and vulnerable during the arrest, leading to feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress. Any form of mistreatment – including physical and verbal abuse – can cause these feelings to intensify. 

Stigma and Social Isolation

Being arrested can also lead to social isolation and stigma. Feeling ashamed or embarrassed after getting arrested is common and can cause them to withdraw from family or friends. Employers and landlords often discriminate against those with a criminal record. Being isolated from others can exaggerate other mental health problems because it causes feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.  Seeking help from a therapist or counselor can help one cope with the social and emotional effects of being arrested. 

Common Mental Health Problems After Being Arrested

A variety of mental health problems can arise after getting arrested which can have a lasting impact on someone’s life. Some common mental health problems that can happen after being arrested include:

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be triggered due to the trauma of getting arrested. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are three of the most common anxiety disorders people experience. These cause a person to experience excessive worry, fear, and nervousness – all of which make it difficult to carry out daily activities.


Being arrested can trigger depression. Depression can cause people to feel persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns. The individual may feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined as a psychiatric disorder that may occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Post-traumatic stress disorder is defined as a psychiatric disorder that may occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder. Typically, people who suffer from PTSD have intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares that remind them of the event. For someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, their symptoms need to last for more than a month and cause significant problems in daily life. 

Substance Abuse and Addiction

After getting arrested, an individual may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with negative thoughts. In some people, this can lead to substance abuse and addiction problems. A variety of problems can happen due to substance abuse. Common issues that happen because of addiction include legal problems, financial difficulties, and physical and mental health problems.

Suicide Risk

The risk of suicide can also increase after being arrested. In individuals who have a history of mental health problems or who feel overwhelmed easily the suicide risk increases even more. Being aware of the signs of suicide is important. If a person is having suicidal thoughts, it is critical to get help immediately as suicide is not an option. 

The Importance of Seeking Professional Help

Seeking professional help is important if you’re experiencing mental health problems after being arrested. A mental health professional can assess one’s symptoms and come up with a treatment plan. This can include therapy, medication, or other interventions. Seeking professional help can help you manage your symptoms

Getting arrested often leads to a variety of mental health issues; however, remember that help is available. Seeking help from a therapist or counselor is imperative when struggling with mental health. It’s possible to overcome the challenges of being arrested with the right help and to move forward with a healthier, more positive outlook on life.

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