Although in recent years, the rate has slowed down a bit, American marriages still end in divorce nearly 40% of the time. It should not be a surprise that the high levels of stress and contention often associated with divorce can cause anxiety and mental health issues. Even if a divorce is relatively amicable, it still has a deep and lasting effect on the psyche over the short and long term. With so many marriages ending this way, we need to understand how it affects us.
Divorce is one of the most challenging situations someone will face in their lifetime. An individual’s hopes, dreams, and plans are destroyed, and the prospect of losing a life partner can feel devastating. If financial struggles and custody issues are involved, our hearts and minds are under severe stress. That being said, there are also some potential positive implications of divorce – if the relationship is toxic or abusive, for instance, a divorce may provide relief and safety. Overall, divorce represents a complex and complicated web of emotions.
Everyone responds to divorce in their own unique way – and people may experience emotions ranging from shame and guilt to depression, anxiety, loneliness, anger, and desperation. While freedom from a bad relationship can cause elation initially, it can also cause destructive social behavior, such as going out to clubs every night in search of validation. While many people feel that they emerged unscathed, hidden scars and wounds can manifest at the most unexpected times, causing problems in new relationships. Therefore it is imperative that anyone who has experienced a divorce allows themselves to experience emotions, heal from any pain or trauma – and get help when necessary.
Suppose you have undergone a divorce and find yourself isolating from others, striking out in inappropriate anger or aggression, suffering bouts of sadness out of nowhere, or engaging in addictive behavior (substance abuse or binge-watching television). In that case, you may wish to seek out some help in processing your emotions.
More About Addictive Behavior Post-Divorce
As is often the case with mental health, many issues can be intertwined. The loss and depression associated with divorce sometimes manifest as overeating and weight gain, which can then cause serious health problems such as hypertension and diabetes. However, many process rejection by trying to “look better” – and may develop an eating disorder or workout obsessively, trying to sculpt an ideal or perfect body.
Substance abuse is also common after divorce. Alcohol, drugs, and sedatives are often utilized to ease or dull feelings of pain – but all of these “solutions” end up causing extensive harm on top of any issues caused by the divorce.
Moving on With life
Moving on from a divorce can be difficult, especially as many aspects of life continue as normal. However, it is vital to go through the emotions and process them in a healthy way. If someone is depressed or angry post-divorce, one of the best ways to move forward is to develop healthy habits. A new exercise routine can stimulate the release of hormones that promote well-being, and a healthy diet can dispel feelings of sluggishness or fatigue.
Of course, it is unrealistic to believe that recovery from such a serious life trauma should come quickly – or that you must go through it alone. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your feelings with a close friend or family member, a mental health counselor can provide a compassionate but non-partisan sounding board. Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified mental health counselor and coach located in Sarasota, Florida. Her holistic, spiritual, and compassionate approach to counseling has provided hope and healing to clients across the United States. Call today to learn more.
Remember, if at any point you feel that you may be at risk of suicide or self-harm, seek help immediately.