How does divorce affect mental health?
Divorce or separation is an emotional journey with legal and financial consequences. Whilst the legal and financial processes are usually well considered, the emotional journey is often neglected, including considering how your separation will affect your own mental health.
If you’ve been through a divorce, you’ve likely experienced the turbulent emotions a separation brings. If you are considering divorce or separation, a good place to start the emotional journey is with learning how divorce affects mental health and how to deal with it in a healthy way.
Perhaps what is less well known is how long it can take to emotionally recover. Stats show that it can take up to two years to get over a divorce. Divorcing is often referred to as the second most traumatic life experience after the death of a loved one. It makes sense to take care of yourself during this time. Your mental health is important, and you can only protect your family’s wellbeing if you are well yourself.
Here are some amicable tips on how to mentally prepare for divorce and how to prevent the negative impact on your mental health:
1. Don’t rush in to divorce and don’t rush your partner
Take a moment to plot where you are on the chart below. As a general rule, the ‘initiator’ of the divorce is usually further along this curve. Progressing too fast usually ends in conflict and can feel frustrating if you’re the one further along this change curve. Rushing things can also be expensive, if you’re not entirely sure what you want and are arguing, this can mean prolonging the process and making changes halfway through.
2. Find help
If you feel low and need help or want professional advice on how to mentally prepare for a divorce in a healthy way, be assured that there is so much out there to help you.
- Visit your GP – cognitive behavioural therapy is a drug-free option that you’ll likely be offered
- Try counselling – this website will help you find local counsellors in your local area
- Get help online – you can also get help from online therapists or from online forums who have people just like you trying to navigate the emotional journey
3. Help raise awareness
There are still taboos around divorce and separation that lead people to feel ashamed about the breakdown of the marriage. How you perceive the process changes how divorce affects mental health overall. Whatever you do, don’t be hard on yourself or bottle things up. Divorce is a sad thing, not a bad thing. Speaking up about how you feel is not only good for your mental health but will also give strength to others who are going through the same thing.
4. Take care of yourself physically
Divorce can be a stressful, uncertain time so distracting yourself by doing positive things for your body and mind will help reduce the negative impact stress can have. It’s very easy to distract yourself with alcohol, food, staying out late etc. But the key is to do it in moderation and not let it become something you depend on to get you through the emotional side of divorce. Remember, when you’re very stressed, you’re more likely to make rash decisions. So, focus on this as an incentive to moderate your blowouts and focus on your health.
So, how does divorce affect mental health?
Divorce can impact your mental health and wellbeing in various ways. Our diagram shows the journey people go through when a major life change happens.
At the start of the process, you are likely to experience raw emotions such as shock, denial and anger. You may also experience sadness and depression as you move through the healing curve.
Separation is not only a change for the couple but also for others in their immediate social circles such as their family and friends.
How divorce affects mental health will differ person to person. But there are common themes which crop up through how people react initially to positive and negative ways they deal with it.
Episode #16 of The Divorce Podcast, hosted by Kate Daly. Kate is joined by mental health expert Petra Velzeboer and HR specialist Gareth Jones who discuss divorce, mental health and how to support your colleagues.
How long does it take to mentally recover from a divorce?
It can take up to two years to mentally recover from a divorce or separation. For some people, it can take much longer though. Especially if the divorce or separation was a very traumatic or acrimonious experience.
Can divorce cause mental illness?
Divorce itself is not a direct cause of mental illness, but it can be a significant stressor and trigger for mental health issues in some individuals.
What is the hardest stage of divorce?
The hardest stage of a divorce can vary from person to person, as it depends on individual circumstances and emotions. However, it is often the initial acceptance of the reality of the situation and learning how to mentally prepare for divorce and the change that will occur from it.
Does divorce pain ever go away?
Yes, although it might take a while. The best initial advice is to take everything one step at a time and seek professional help if you are struggling.