The impact of divorce on your mental health

Divorce can be stressful and wreak havoc on your mental and physical health if you let yourself go. (Rawpixel pic)

The five most stressful situations in life are: death of a loved one, divorce, moving, illness and major injury, as well as losing your job.

Sadly, all of us face these stressful and heart-wrenching situations in life at some time or another.

If you are going through a divorce, you might wonder how it will impact your mental health and what you can do to cope. Whether you’re happy that you are getting a divorce or heartbroken, you can get through this hard time.

Divorce and mental health

Divorce can wreak havoc on your emotional health. If you had expected to live with your partner for the rest of your life; a divorce can leave you with overwhelming anxiety, depression, rage, and hopelessness.

You could even feel ashamed, resentful, and unsure of why things went wrong. The sad thing is that these feelings could last for months or even years if you don’t deal with your emotions in healthy ways.

According to OnlineDivorce, divorce is listed as the second most stressful situation that a person could encounter during their lives.

If you have children, you might wonder how your divorce will affect them. You could worry about how to tell your children and what they might think; this alone can cause a great amount of stress.

Many people begin to isolate themselves from friends and family, which adds to their feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and insecurity.

If your spouse cheated on you, you might suffer from feelings of worthlessness, anger, and confusion. Some people actually file for divorce online.

All of these very strong emotions could lead to destructive behaviour – alcohol abuse, drug abuse, promiscuous sexual relations (like continuous one-night stands, which could increase your risk of HIV and AIDS), and overspending on unnecessary items. Your physical health could also begin to deteriorate.

Divorce and physical health

According to HealthLine, you might begin to suffer from eating disorders. Often when people are depressed, they stop eating which can cause malnutrition and weight loss.

If this is the case, you could be prone to more colds and flu, as well as heart disease. And if you stop eating, your anxiety levels will also increase.

Some people, though, could find themselves on the opposite end of the scale. These people could end up comfort eating, binge eating and overeating. Food might make them feel comforted.

They could then gain weight, which is also bad for your health. This can increase blood pressure, cholesterol and increase your chances of a heart attack and obesity.

Research shows many men turn to drink to cope with depression from a divorce. (Rawpixel pic)

Divorce and stress

Divorce can be stressful and stress leads to depression. Some people who feel depressed use alcohol or drugs to help them feel better.

One study showed that men tend to suffer more during a divorce because they are emotionally unprepared for it. Men also tend to keep their feelings bottled up, and many turn to drink to cope.

Couples who have substance abuse before a divorce also tend to have a higher divorce rate than couples who do not.

Research also shows that divorced men are more likely to be at risk of death, than their married counterparts, because of destructive behaviours.

Intrusive thoughts could also become a problem during a divorce such as suicide. If you have any of these thoughts, do not take it lightly – seek help.

The sad thing is that if children are involved, a parent’s self-destructive behaviour could cause severe emotional damage to them. Parents or even couples who do not have children need to find healthier ways to cope with divorce.

Coping with divorce

Psychologists are trained to help you cope during a divorce. They can offer great advice. Talking about how you feel, your ex and your marriage can help your mental state.

They might also offer cognitive behavioural therapy, which will help to train your mind to think more positively.

Yoga or any form of exercise releases endorphins which are happy hormones that will help you cope with depression. (Rawpixel pic)

Keep yourself busy. Join a yoga group or do any type of physical exercise with friends or family. Maintain a healthy diet. Good food will fuel your soul and give you the added nutrients your body needs to keep going.

Doing these things will help you manage feelings of stress and anxiety and anger. Exercising releases endorphins, feel-good hormones that are exactly what you need during a divorce.

Make sure that you get enough sleep. If you are struggling to sleep due to stress, see your healthcare provider.

If you feel you are not coping, ask your GP for advice on medications to help you cope. You might be able to find herbal remedies that could help, or if your doctor prescribes an antidepressant, take it.

Surround yourself with friends and family. Remember, you are not alone. Don’t isolate yourself. If you need some time alone, make sure you don’t hide in the depths of despair for too long.

Many men are taught from young to block out their emotions, but give yourself permission to feel. If you feel depressed, angry, confused, allow yourself to feel. Emotions are a normal part of life and bottling them up inside, will only cause more pain.

Takeaway

Your mental health can take a hard knock during a divorce, but you can control whether your divorce will destroy you or not.

Find comfort in knowing that so many people feel the same way as you do. So many people have experienced the heartache, anger, resentment, and anxiety that you are feeling now. These people have come through on the other side victorious.

Seek the help you need. Depression and anxiety are curable and remember the sun always shines again after a storm.

Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.