Depression can occur in a person after a divorce. Feelings that arise may include a sense of loss, uncertainty about the future, and sadness.
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With help and support, there are ways to manage depression after divorce. This article details why depression can occur after divorce, its symptoms, treatment, and tips on coping.
The end of a marriage is a life changing event that may produce a range of emotions. Regardless of whether a person was the one to initiate the divorce, they may feel an increase in stress and loneliness or find themselves unhappy.
In many cases, this can result in one or both parties experiencing a period of depression. This depression can take place at any time, from immediately after the divorce to much later. It might persist for days, weeks, months, years, or the rest of a person’s life.
Depression may feel like:
- inability to feel joy or happiness
- a combination of the three
This depression can range from persistent sadness to occasional bouts of mild or intense depression. It could also be debilitating or all-encompassing. While every situation is different, depression can, in many instances, not be proportional to one’s circumstances.
Depression after divorce can happen for a number of reasons. These may include:
- Psychological stress: The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory ranks “marital separation from mate” as the third most stressful life event that can happen to a person. Psychological stress is a
major factorin depression.
- Lifestyle change: A major lifestyle change forces people to manage new challenges that they may have been previously unacquainted with, which in turn can be very stressful.
- Financial difficulty: Financial strain is one of the
leading reasons for divorce. Divorce can be an expensive process. From lawyer’s fees to child maintenance payments to simply no longer having a two-income household, divorce can cause financial difficulties. Financial stress is also closely linked to depression.
- Familial strain: Depression after divorce can also affect those outside of the former couple. Children of divorced parents may have strained relationships with their parents following a divorce, causing them or their parents to experience depression. Custody proceedings over children may also result in intense stress.
- New relationships: Embarking on a new relationship or dealing with an ex-partner starting a new relationship may trigger feelings of depression. The introduction of stepfamilies may also result in tension and depression in one or numerous members of those families.
- Grief: Losing a loved one or a once-loved one often results in feelings of grief, even if that person is still alive. Grief may manifest as feelings of depression.
As previously mentioned, depression can feel like emptiness, sadness, or an inability to feel happy. Symptoms of depression after divorce may also manifest in the following ways:
- a pessimistic outlook on life
- crying often or crying for no reason
- fatigue or sleeping too much
- loss of appetite or overeating for comfort
- weight gain or loss
- lack of self-worth
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- psychomotor agitation, or restlessness
- psychomotor retardation, or slowing of movements
- lack of interest in previously pleasurable activities or hobbies
- physical pain, such as headaches or cramps
- feelings of guilt
- drug and alcohol abuse
- suicidal ideation
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
When facing depression of any kind, it is best to seek treatment.
Depression treatments include:
- Psychotherapy: Some people may want to reach out to a therapist to discuss their feelings surrounding their divorce one-to-one. There are many psychotherapists who specialize in divorce counseling.
- Medication: Doctors may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication to people who are having difficulties with their divorce.
- Food, diet, and exercise: Positively adjusting lifestyle habits might help people feel more positive and better adjust to their new lives without their previous partner.
Getting through depression after a divorce is a personal journey that will vary among individuals. Depending on the severity of the depression, some people may simply need time to grieve.
Some tips for overcoming a divorce include:
- allowing time for the grieving process
- seeking help from family and friends
- seeking professional support
- making positive lifestyle changes
- setting new goals
- talking with a financial advisor
- making new friends
- starting dating again
There are a number of ways that people facing depression following a divorce can seek help and support:
For some people, it might help to know that they are not alone in what they are experiencing. Here are some support groups for those going through a divorce:
- Circles: This affordable online support group offers a wide range of support options for people going through a divorce.
- Divorce Care: This divorce recovery program offers online and in-person support groups.
- MensGroup: This group offers in-person divorce support for men.
- Woman’s Divorce: This group offers in-person divorce support for women.
- Rainbow Families: This nonprofit offers support for LGBTQ+ community members.
Some individuals may prefer speaking with a professional psychotherapist on a one-to-one basis rather than talking about their feelings in a group setting. This could be with a standard therapist or a specialized divorce counselor.
Support for substance misuse issues
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These people may want to seek out professional help from an addiction specialist or join a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Family and friends
Nobody should have to face depression alone. People may find value in opening up to family and friends about their emotions following a divorce.
People having issues with their mental health can also contact the National Helpline for 24-7 advice and assistance.
Understanding the emotions involved surrounding a divorce is a complex and difficult process that requires time, support, and effort from those involved.
People experiencing feelings associated with depression following a divorce should know that they are not alone and that there is help and support available to them.