Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and difficult times in a person's life, and this high level of stress can have a lasting impact on your mental health. Many people feel overwhelmed by the myriad of emotions they experience following the end of their marriage—sadness, guilt, anger, confusion, and this can be the case even when you were the one who initiated the divorce. These feelings are completely normal and valid, but they can take their toll if left unchecked for too long. It's important to understand the potential impacts of divorce on the mental health of you and your family so that you can work to mitigate those effects and care for yourself and your children as you navigate this difficult transition period.
Studies have shown that the impact that divorce has on mental health can be profound and long-lasting, particularly if the divorce is acrimonious or there are battles over custody or alimony (maintenance). It is not unusual for people going through a divorce to experience feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, and rage. These feelings can last months and sometimes years.
How Can Divorce Stress Impact Your Emotional Well-Being?
The emotional toll of divorce can be immense and can have a major impact on our mental health. It is important to understand the various ways that divorce impacts our emotions and how we can work to mitigate these effects.
Divorce often brings up feelings of guilt, especially if one partner initiated it or there are children involved in the marriage. Feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger are common during this time as well. These negative emotions can take their toll if they go unchecked for too long.
Here are some of the ways that divorce can impact your mental health:
- Anxiety: Divorce can trigger feelings of anxiety and lead to chronic worrying about the future, including how to cover expenses, adjusting to changes, parenting, and what life will be like after the divorce. Anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, sweating, or agitation.
- Depression: It is common for people to experience depression during and after divorce. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, inadequate and a loss of control or direction can become overwhelming, and may result in a lack of energy, changes in eating or sleeping habits, or even suicidal thoughts.
- Anger: Anger is a typical response to grief because it is often easier to feel angry than sad or helpless. Divorce can trigger feelings of anger towards the other partner, themselves or even friends or family members who they feel did not meet their expectations.
- Guilt: Divorce can come with feelings of guilt, particularly if there was infidelity or underlying issues that caused the separation. Guilt can leave people feeling emotionally drained and may result in negative self-talk or feelings of unworthiness.
- Social isolation: Divorce can often lead to social isolation as people feel like they need to retreat from their usual social circles. This isolation can lead to an increase in stress and depression, as social support can play an important role in maintaining positive mental health.
However, it's also important to recognize that there can be many positive changes following a divorce as well. Divorce can provide opportunities for personal growth and self-reflection, which can lead to better relationships in the future. In some cases, you may find yourself feeling relieved from some of the pressures associated with your marriage such as having fewer responsibilities or more freedom in your life choices going forward. Many people experience higher levels of life satisfaction following their divorce.
How Can You Care for Your Mental Health During and After a Divorce?
Ultimately, it's important to understand the risks of negative mental health impacts following a divorce so that you can take appropriate steps to care for yourself during this stressful time. In many cases, it may help to seek professional help or join a support group of people going through similar experiences. With the right care and attention, it is possible to manage the emotional challenges associated with divorce and come out stronger on the other side.
Here are a few ways you can care for your own mental health while going through a divorce:
- Prioritize self-care: Taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs is key to protecting your mental health when you're going through a difficult time like divorce. Try to maintain healthy habits like exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that you enjoy.
- Connect with others: It's important to stay connected with others during a divorce, even though it can be tempting to withdraw. Make time for friends, family, or support groups as they can offer valuable emotional support and validation.
- Establish healthy boundaries: During a divorce, it's essential to establish clear boundaries between yourself and your former partner. This could include reducing your contact with them or setting limits on what you will discuss with them. Prioritizing your own emotional boundaries can help reduce stress and promote healthy coping when faced with difficulties.
- Seek professional help: Divorce can be a tumultuous time, and it's okay to seek help from a mental health professional like a therapist or counselor. They can offer guidance and support as you navigate the emotional rollercoaster that comes with divorce.
- Be patient: Healing from divorce can take time, and it's essential to practice patience with yourself as you navigate this challenging time. Healing is a process, and it's okay to experience setbacks or unexpected emotions. Remember to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the time to go through a process that is ultimately unique to you.
How Can Your Mental Health Impact Your Physical Health During Divorce?
It’s important to recognize that the emotional stress of divorce can have a direct impact on your physical health as well. Research has shown that divorced people face a heightened risk for some long-term chronic health problems, so it's especially important that those facing divorce care for both their mental and physical well-being both during and after divorce.
When facing the emotional challenges associated with divorce, it's essential to take steps towards managing your mental health so that you don't suffer negative impacts on your physical health down the line, including:
- Exercise: Exercise can be especially beneficial because it causes your body release endorphins, which can help you experience a higher level of well-being and help manage your stress levels. It's okay to start small - even taking a short daily walk outdoors can also help ensure you're getting a daily dose of sunshine, which can help both your physical and mental well-being.
- Eating well: It is also especially important to eat well during this time. Many people find that they avoid eating or overeat during times of significant psychological stress. Eating a balanced diet can help you maintain your energy levels, provide essential vitamins and minerals, and improve your mood. Even if you're not hungry, find ways to nourish your body - whether that's drinking smoothies or eating protein-rich soups.
- Get adequate rest: Sleep deprivation can lead to physical and mental health issues such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain or loss, irritability, impaired concentration, or memory problems. It's important to focus on getting at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep during this time so that you can have the strength and resilience necessary to manage the emotional challenges associated with divorce.
Divorce can be an emotionally difficult experience with far reaching impacts on our mental health. It's important to understand these potential risks so that we can take steps towards mitigating them by caring for our own mental health needs in healthy and proactive ways. Taking the time to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually can help you manage the stress associated with divorce and ensure you come out feeling stronger on the other side.
How Can Parental Divorce Impact Children's Mental Health?
Children, too, can experience significant impacts to their mental health in the wake of parental divorce. The feelings and behaviors that children experience following a divorce can have a lasting effect on their emotional well-being. Children may feel confused, scared, and angry following their parents' divorce. They may worry about their relationships with each parents and what life will be like after the divorce. In some cases, they may even blame themselves for their parents’ breakup. It is also important to consider how adjustment difficulties and mental health issues can present differently in children depending on their age and individual situation.
Some potential problems that may arise include:
- Difficulty concentrating in school
- Withdrawal from friends or family members
- Aggressive behavior towards peers or siblings
- Anxiety or depression
- Eating disorders, substance abuse, or other self-destructive behaviors
- Poor self-esteem or low academic achievement
How Can You Help Your Child Cope with Your Divorce?
It is important to recognize the potential risks of negative mental health impacts on children so that you can take appropriate steps to care for them during this stressful time.
Here are some steps you can take to help care for your child's mental health following a divorce:
- Create a safe and structured home environment: During and after a divorce, children may feel anxious or uncertain about the future. Setting up a stable and structured home environment can help reduce the sense of uncertainty and provide a sense of stability and routine in their lives.
- Encourage open communication: Kids can often have many questions and concerns about divorce, so it's important parents foster open lines of communication with their children. Make time to listen to your child's concerns and offer reassurance and support as needed.
- Maintain a positive relationship with the other parent: Trying to maintain a positive and respectful relationship with the other parent, even if they are separated, can benefit the mental health of a child. A friendly co-parenting relationship can provide the stability and support children need during and after the divorce.
- Seek support from a therapist or support group: Divorce can be an incredibly challenging experience for children, and it may be helpful to seek support from a therapist or a support group to help them navigate their feelings and emotions about the situation.
- Encourage self-care: Using proper measures to care for themselves, as well as encouraging their children to engage in healthy activities, can help promote positive mental health. Helping kids maintain healthy habits like exercise, sleep, and eating well can positively impact children's mental well-being, despite the current difficulties.
Divorce can have far reaching impacts on both mental and physical health, so it is important to take steps towards managing these challenges in healthy ways. Ultimately, caring for your own emotional well-being during this difficult time should be a priority. Whether that's through seeking out professional help or engaging in activities like exercise and eating well - taking the necessary measures to care for yourself can ultimately benefit you emotionally going forward. Similarly, providing children with support and reassurance throughout their parents' divorce can ensure they maintain positive mental health as well.
At Galmiche Law Firm, P.C., we understand how difficult navigating a divorce process can be and are here to provide legal assistance when needed. Our team of experienced attorneys specialize in family law matters such as child custody arrangements, asset divisions, spousal support issues and more - allowing us to offer comprehensive advice tailored specifically to each individual case. We understand that the decisions made during your divorce will impact you and your family’s long term well-being, and we are committed to helping our clients build better futures for themselves and their families.
If you’re considering filing for divorce or need guidance during the separation process, reach out to us online or call us at (636) 552-4841 to schedule a consultation.