Can Divorce Cause Depression?

U.S. divorce rates have remained consistently high through the years, and several thousands of American couples have to undergo the divorce process. While some couples divorce simply because of irreconcilable differences, some split because of reasons such as adultery, a commission of a felony, incarceration, etc.

A level of emotional pain is expected if you lose a spouse to death. Luckily, loss through death provides a defined grieving process. However, spouses who go through divorce don’t have a clear roadmap of how to process the divorce and adjusting to the new life devoid of the marriage union. While for some, it’s a relieving end to a displeasing relationship, for others, the separation creates deep psychological distress that keeps these people from moving forward.

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A divorce coach will quickly inform you that the main difference between situational depression and clinical depression is that situational depression is caused by a loss such as death or divorce. Most people will experience some form of situational depression as part of the normal grieving process, which is brought by the losses related to the divorce. Sometimes if not dealt with in the right way, this depression can stay longer than it should.

How divorce can cause depression

Since your divorce started, you’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with your heart pounding. Sometimes you cannot catch your breath and you go about your daily activities with a feeling of detachment, almost feeling like you’re watching someone else’s life. These are some of the first signs that you may be going through depression and anxiety caused by divorce stress.

U.S. Surgeon General estimates that about 30-40% of individuals going through divorce report having increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Any life change is truly stress-inducing, but divorce is worse because it creates unknown and unpredicted situations with a lot of fear, low self-esteem and insecurity.

  • All these feelings of panic and depression create several physical symptoms such as chills, nausea, dizziness, several fears, chest pain and sweating. People suffering from anxiety issues are three to five times more likely to see a doctor to figure out what’s happening to them.

A study by the Association for Psychological Science indicates that divorce is associated with an increased risk of future depressive episodes among people with a history of depression. Some people have a higher risk of experiencing depression following divorce than others. 

Divorce as a phase of life issue

Significant emotional disorder as a consequent of a significant life change is usually called “phase of life issues.” Divorce is among the top occurring “phase of life issues” and comes second after the death of a spouse. Isolation, having intrusive thoughts and deep insecurity are some of the feelings one may have. They may prevent you from envisioning a joyful future or even experiencing any pleasure of life. 

Dealing with depression after divorce

Get more human touch

If you wish to deal with depression caused by divorce, get more human touch.

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One of the divorce coaches on this platform will quickly tell you that most people miss the casual contact of marriage – the hugs, arms around the shoulder, holding of hands, or even bumping into each other in the bathroom or kitchen. 

One of the things to do if you’re missing casual touch is to book a massage, hug yourself, be known by your friends as a hugger, and get a manicure or/and pedicure.

Take a note of the conversations you’re having with yourself

Most people’s internal discussions are something less than complimentary. A commendable way of changing this conversation is by calling yourself positive, uplifting names. If you’re having trouble coming up with proper names to call yourself, get a close friend, clergy, divorce coach or even therapist to help you out. 

Allow yourself to mourn

If you want to cry, be angry, go ahead and do it. You don’t want to cover your emotions and bypass the stages of grief. One right way of doing this is by writing a “goodbye letter.” It takes courage to draft such a letter to everything and everyone that isn’t different now that you’re divorced. You want to say goodbye to the traditions you had as a couple, the birthdays, the role of your spouse, holidays, your in-laws, friends who aren’t going to stand by your side during the transition, etc. This exercise allows you to see what exactly you’re grieving and start the journey of dealing with your situational depression. The reward for this is an intense catharsis. 

Ultimately, divorce is never an easy issue to go through. Many people don’t wish to see a breakdown of their marriages, but sometimes it forces them to accept reality. If you’re going through a painful divorce, get the help of friends, family, etc., since isolation is a major contributing factor to depression and many other mental health issues.

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