How to deal with divorce depression

For many people, divorce is a stressful life event that can negatively affect your mental health. Here, our experts explore how you can deal with the difficulties of a marriage breaking down.

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When it comes to divorce, there isn’t a structured way of dealing with the feelings and emotions it causes. With many other life changes, such as entering a marriage, starting a new job or retiring, there are socially accepted traditions, events and rituals that mark and support the life change. Examples include the leaving do for your old job and the induction at your new one, or stag and hen parties before the wedding day. These events help a person to deal with the process and come to terms with their emotions.

But for divorces, these don’t exist. There are no traditions or events that are in place to allow you to mourn the loss or to help with the healing process, like there are with other important transitions.

This lack of societal support can leave you struggling with the process and your emotions alone, feeling that you must do so out of sight and away from people, which can cause you to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.

If you’re struggling to cope with the emotional pressures of a divorce, it might be that you’re suffering from depression. You can use this guide to identify your symptoms and learn how to move forwards.

Is my divorce making me ill?

The majority of people who go through divorce are likely to feel unhappy or go through periods of increased stress. If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing the symptoms of depression. Here are a few key signs to look out for:

  • Intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or struggling to get out of bed in the morning
  • Psychomotor agitation (being restless or unable to sit still) or psychomotor retardation (slowing of movements)

Significant changes in your life, especially negative ones, are one of the most common causes of depression. If you’ve been experiencing some of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you might consider reaching out to your local GP for professional, medical support. They can assess you, provide a diagnosis for depression and offer you advice on what to do next, including treatment options.

How can I cope with divorce depression?

The symptoms of depression can be incredibly difficult to deal with, limiting your ability to lead a normal life. However, there are everyday things you can do to help improve your mood, limit symptoms and help you to cope with depression brought on by divorce.

Take the time to process your feelings

When we’re feeling down, we tend to push away negative emotions or try to ignore them, and hope they'll go away. In the long-term, disregarding how you feel about the changes going on in your life can be damaging to your mental health. There's no timeframe for your recovery from depression, but putting time aside to get in touch with how you feel will help you to cope with any symptoms of depression on a day-to-day basis.

You can do this in one of many ways. Mindfulness exercises can help you to decompress and process your thoughts, or you can speak to a trusted friend or mental health professional in a clinical environment such as in therapy sessions. Today, you can even do that from the comfort of your own home via online therapy.

Written and narrated by Priory Therapist, Adele Burdon-Bailey, take 10 minutes from your day to ease symptoms of depression with this guided meditation.

Surround yourself with support

At other important points in your life, it's likely that you turned to friends and family for their help and support. For example, you may have turned to your most trusted friend for wedding advice, or a parent to show you the way with parenthood.

It’s important that you try to identify a similar source of support during this new life change and the feelings that go alongside it. It doesn’t matter if they're married or divorced, but they must be able to help you see yourself as capable and good, and be there for you when you’re going through tough times. This support can then help you to normalise the notion of being divorced, rather than seeing it as an affliction you have to cope with alone.

Stay healthy

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, can complement the support you get from others, helping you to look after and preserve your health and wellbeing in the long-term.

Consider professional help

Working with a therapist is one of the most effective ways to deal with depression that's come about through divorce. With a trained professional, you can visualise and plan for a better future, while exploring and navigating your way through your feelings about the past. Therapy gives you the opportunity to reduce your anxieties and fears about what life may be like going forwards.

Help with depression and divorce

Every person deals with loss and significant changes to their lives differently, but you don’t have to struggle alone. There are lots of effective treatments for depression that can help you get your life back on track.

At our Priory hospitals and wellbeing centres, located across the UK, our therapists are highly experienced in working with people going through the divorce process, and who may have depression as a result.

We work hard to ensure that you feel safe and comfortable enough to open up about what you’re going through and the issues that are troubling you. We can deliver therapy sessions at a pace and in a style that’s suitable for you.

We also offer inpatient, day care and outpatient support for depression, where we provide bespoke programmes that are based on a person’s needs and requirements.

Get in touch today and we can speak to you about your treatment options.

This page was clinically reviewed by Olivia Dornan (BA, BACP), Integrative Therapist and Therapy Services Manager at Priory Hospital Barnt Green.

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