Depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder are just 3 ways divorce can impact a person. Is divorce screwing with your mental health?
Divorce is no picnic, not for the majority of us anyway. The legal process, the emotional process, both take a toll mentally and physically. If you find yourself involved in a high conflict divorce that not only drags on legally but also, emotionally your mental health could suffer. Research has shown that divorce can take a serious toll on everything from your sleep habits to your heart rate.
On top of that, there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with divorce which can cause you to feel insecure about today, tomorrow or, even next year. Depending on your circumstances you may suddenly have to move, go back to work after years of focusing on your children and home and survive on less money than before. Knowing about the following mental health issues that can come up during a divorce will allow you to take charge of your emotional health and do everything you can to prevent too much damage.
Anxiety and Divorce
Scientific research shows that divorce increases one’s risk of developing anxiety. Anxiety can be exhibited by irritability, chronic worry, increased fearfulness and/or physical agitation, restlessness and at its worst panic attacks. It is not unusual to remain preoccupied with details of your divorce, problems in the relationship with your ex, and wondering what negative issue you’ll have to deal with next.
This obsessiveness can interfere with concentration, sleep, and everyday function. It’ becomes a vicious cycle highly accentuated by feelings of anxiety.
If you find yourself experiencing high levels of anxiety during or after your divorce I encourage you to seek the advice of your doctor or, give the natural remedies below a try.
- Forge new friendships
- Get Regular Exercise
- Pursue new hobbies
- Immersing Yourself in Meaningful Work
- Helping Others by Volunteering
- Find a Counselor or Support Groups
- Reach Out to Family and Friends for Support
- Do Relaxation Exercises
During times of uncertainty and stress, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself. Once you’ve accepted that your anxiety is a normal response to the level of stress you’re experiencing you’ll find it easier to calm yourself down.
Depression and Divorce
Depression that occurs due to traumatic life events such as divorce is different from clinical depression. It’s called adjustment disorder or situational depression. Both clinical depression and situational depression manifest in similar ways.
In some people, depression following a divorce can occur with other behaviors, such as:
- Ignoring responsibilities
- Avoiding family and friends
- Performing poorly at work due to a lack of focus
- Fighting or engaging in conflict
If you’re experiencing any of these behaviors or you’re feeling depressed after divorce, talk to a counselor who can recommend a course of action or suggest a support network.
Other steps helpful in relieving situational depression are:
- Regular Exercise
- Balanced Diet
- Good Sleep Habits
- Having a Good Support System
- Partaking in Activities Than Bring Your Pleasure.
If your symptoms seriously disrupt your life and/or last for extended periods of time, you will likely need to seek the help of a trained psychotherapist who can help you in a group, family or one-on-one setting. If you have severe situational depression symptoms, your doctor may also choose to treat your condition with medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.
The good news, if there is such a thing about depression is that, you’re feeling depressed for a reason. The more emotionally adjusted you become to being divorced, the less depressed you will feel.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after Divorce
The National Institute of Mental Health defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as “an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.”
The definition has been re-defined to include exposure to prolonged exposure to stressful events that cause extreme emotional distress.
It only makes sense then that those involved in a high conflict divorce are also in danger of developing the symptoms of PTSD.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
- Reliving the Traumatic Experience: Survivors of trauma may experience nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event. This might be triggered by something that reminds the survivor of the event like the anniversary of the event or a similar location or even a language.
- Avoidance: People may remove them from people or situations that are similar in some way to the traumatic event. Survivors may become detached from their loved ones and lose interest in their previous passions.
- Increased Arousal: Those with PTSD may become more sensitive to their emotions or bodily sensations. They may have high anxiety levels, insomnia, trouble focusing and be hyper-vigilant.
- Somatoform Illness: A somatoform illness is one in which there in no medical indication for what appears to be a medical problem. For example, those exposed to prolonged stress may suffer from tension headaches caused by the stress. There can be chronic pain that interferes with a person’s ability to function that has no specific medical cause.
How to Best Deal With the Stress Caused by Divorce
If you have endured prolonged stress during and after the divorce process below are steps you can take to help you cope:
- Give yourself time to heal. Anticipate that this will be a difficult time in your life. Allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced. Try to be patient with changes in your emotional state.
- Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen and empathize with your situation. But keep in mind that your typical support system may be weakened if those who are close to you also have experienced or witnessed the trauma.
- Communicate your experience in whatever way feels comfortable to you, such as talking with family or close friends, or keeping a journal.
- Find out about local support groups that often are available such as for those who have suffered from natural disasters, or for those who are victims of domestic abuse. These can be especially helpful for people with limited personal support systems.
- Try to find groups led by appropriately trained and experienced professionals. Group discussion can help people realize that other individuals in the same circumstances often have similar reactions and emotions.
- Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. If you experience ongoing difficulties with sleep, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Establish or reestablish routines such as eating meals at regular times and follow an exercise program. Take some time off from the demands of daily life by pursuing hobbies or other enjoyable activities.
- Avoid major life decisions such as switching careers or jobs if possible because these activities tend to be highly stressful.
In his award-winning book, “Make Any Divorce Better” attorney Ed Sherman says:
“Healing starts with a lot of tiny changes in your daily habits. If you take charge of the little things, the big ones will soon fall in line. You should see it as a triumph when you learn to do for yourself the little things that you always depended on your spouse to do, or make decisions in areas where you always used to defer to your mate. Take pleasure in your new self-reliance when you learn to cook, take care of business, grow house plants, remember birthdays, mow the lawn, create an enjoyable living space, or keep the checkbook balanced. When you change your daily habits in the small ways, you are on your way up.”