Divorce and Depression: What to Look For

When it comes to dramatic life events, divorce ranks near the top. Divorce and breakups can wreak emotional havoc for people prone to depression and negatively affect people who have never experienced bouts of depression before.

“Take steps to prepare for the stress of a divorce or breakup,” said Amber Olson, LCSW, with Memorial Behavioral Health. “Recognize you will experience emotions that can run from anger, sadness and relief to feelings of isolation, exhaustion and hopelessness. It is important to seek out healthy coping mechanisms rather than turning to increased alcohol consumption, drug use or other risky behaviors.”

Even when divorce is more of a positive or expected development in a person’s life, the potential fallout can include:

  • Emotional upheaval. Friends, family and extended social networks often shift when couples break up, which can lead to additional grief over lost or reduced relationships.
  • Financial stress. Divorce leads to divvying up assets including the family home, vehicles, employment benefits and other belongings of value.
  • Child anxiety. If children are involved, protecting their sense of security and stability becomes a top priority, which increases parental stress as new routines are established.
  • Physical and mental health. Sustained stress can cause dramatic weight loss or weight gain, poor sleep, irritability and a compromised immune system and other health-related issues.

Taking time to write out your feelings in a journal or letters that you never send can provide an emotional outlet. You can also work to eat healthier, increase activity and connect with loved ones – even from a social distance. But pursue professional help if your life perspective worsens instead of improves over time.

“If you begin to feel powerless or lost, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a close family member or friend or a mental health professional,” Olson said. “Tackling depression before it impairs your functioning is an important strategy to regaining balance after divorce.”

Need to talk with a provider at Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH)? MBH now provides telehealth and phone appointments with patients. An emotional support hotline is also available at 217-588-5509 to support individuals experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not current MBH patients.