Department of Family Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Michael A. Becketts

Stalking’s Devastating Impact

(Posted 2023 May)

Stalking’s Devastating Impact

woman looking at computer screenStalking, repeated unwanted contact that causes fear, is a crime. Most of the time, stalkers use unwanted text messages, phone calls, social media posts, and emails as their weapons of choice. Sometimes they send unsolicited gifts or threatening items (i.e., dead animals, wilted flowers, or bullets). Stalkers also might loiter near a victim’s house or workplace, spy on them, follow them, or accost them in public. This behavior can go on for years, with potentially devastating effects. 

Of course, stalking’s impact on a victim can vary. Circumstances, past experience, and how the stalking is handled by authorities can influence the overall effect stalking has on its victim. Despite the complexities that may vary a person’s reaction to being stalked, research shows common patterns of response. Although women tend to report greater levels of fear, studies have found male victims experience similar symptoms.

The list below is not exhaustive but highlights some of the more common effects stalking victims experience:

Physical Health

  • Fatigue from being constantly on guard
  • Sleeplessness
  • Chronic stress
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems 
  • Development of or worsening of pre-existing conditions (i.e., asthma, psoriasis, or ulcers)
  • Dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating
  • Impact on health of increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Injuries

Emotional Well-Being

  • Apprehension, fear, terror of being alone or that they, other people, or pets will be harmed 
  • Denial, confusion, self-doubt
  • Guilt, embarrassment, self-blame
  • Feeling isolated and helpless 
  • Depression
  • Anxiety, panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
  • Irritability, anger
  • Insecurity and inability to trust others, problems with intimacy
  • Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (i.e., hypervigilance, flashbacks, or easily startled)
  • Personality changes due to becoming more suspicious, introverted, or aggressive
  • Self-medication through alcohol or drugs, including prescribed medications
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

 The longer the duration of stalking, the more significant the mental health impact.

Work, School, or Social Life

  • Deteriorating performance
  • Increased sick leave
  • Being fired
  • Dropping out of school 
  • Avoiding usual activities (i.e., going to dinner with friends or a morning run)
  • Having to move or change a phone number

If you or someone you know has experienced stalking, call the Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 703-360-7273 for support.


This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings! Sign up today!

For media inquiries, contact Department of Family Services' Public Information Officer Amy Carlini by email, office phone 703-324-7758 or mobile phone 571-355-6672.

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