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Can Divorce Cause PTSD?

Can Divorce Cause PTSD?

Divorce can be a traumatic experience especially if it happens suddenly. The pain and despair of finally being legally separated from someone who you have loved and cared for even if for a short period can be devastating. You have shared all your best and worst moments together. You even have a family. Everything is fine and all of a sudden it is not. Getting divorced from a person you have loved for years is never easy. Most divorces are stressful but not all can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), though some eventually do. Before we look at reasons as to why a divorce can lead to PTSD, we should first understand what it is.

What is PTSD?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatizing event. PTSD is common to divorces that have occurred as a result of abusive marriages or relationships. People suffering from PTSD usually have intense and disturbing memories and thoughts that are connected to their experience. Reports by the American Psychiatric Association revealed that women are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD than men. This shocking result is also true in PTSD related to divorce or separation.

When it comes to marriages, abuse is not only physical but can be emotional too. People who have been in an emotionally abusive marriage can suffer from PTSD just like a physically abused person. The important thing is to know the symptoms so that you can to seek medical attention. It is common for people with this condition to have a horrible flashback or nightmares related to their traumatic event. You may also experience fear, general sadness, and anger.

Symptoms of PTSD after divorce

PTSD symptoms are classified into three major categories. These include the avoidance symptoms, the hyperarousal symptoms and the re-experiencing symptoms. It is important to understand that divorces are different and can therefore lead to different symptoms. For instance, while one person can be withdrawn and show sadness after divorce another person can be hyper and very active. However, the following symptoms are common to all those who are affected by PTSD.

● Depression

This form of depression experienced due to PTSD as a result of divorce is slightly different from normal clinical depression. This kind of depression is sometimes medically referred to as situational depression or an adjustment depression. It is usually very difficult to differentiate between these two types of depression because they might manifest in similar ways.

Common signs to watch out for include loss of appetite, fatigue, loss of interest in hobbies or work, irritability, suicidal tendencies, and low self-esteem among other signs.

Women experience depression differently from men. In women, depression can manifest itself in terms of sadness and low self-esteem while in men it manifests in terms of rage, irritability or lack of sleep. Divorce can also trigger pre-existing depression just like a pre-existing mental illness can be a cause of a divorce.

To be diagnosed with depression a patient has to show more than five or more of the signs and symptoms. It is advisable that you see a medical doctor or psychiatrist as soon as you develop the above signs. The doctor is likely to recommend antidepressants and psychotherapy. He or she can also prescribe art therapy or acupuncture and relaxation techniques such as yoga depending on the level of the depression.

● Nightmare

Our brains usually process our fears more at night than during the day. These fears are then expressed in the form of nightmares that make us toss and turn at night. It is a common occurrence for many different people to have nightmares after a divorce. This condition is even more common in kids than in adults. It is inherent for children to be affected by the stress associated with divorce. If such a thing happens, it is the responsibility of the adult to reassure the kids of safety and support.
Recent studies reveal that people going through a nasty divorce are likely to experience a major shift in terms of the content of their dreams. But the good thing is that the same studies conclude that the dreams and nightmares experienced can help the individuals cope with their current situation. The trick is to view the nightmares as a stepping stone rather than a deterrent.

● Flashbacks

It’s quite common for people who are divorced or are in the process to relive their worst or best moments through flashbacks. The flashbacks are usually triggered by a reminder such as seeing or experiencing similar events that you had together with your spouse. The condition can easily get out of hand and can be hard to manage. The flashback can start as a temporary occurrence and quickly develop to a complicated level where the person is not aware of the present at all. Understanding the triggers as well as knowing the early warning signs can go a long way in managing your condition.

● Emotional Outburst

This is regarded as one of the many hyperarousal symptoms of divorce-related PTSD. Emotional outburst such as the display of anger goes hand in hand with PTSD. When this condition happens to you, you can easily harm yourself or others around you. This is because the emotion is normally intense and can easily get out of control. In case of such a situation, the ideal solution is to learn to control yourself whether you are alone or around other people. Get help and don’t hold your emotions as this will lead to more aggressive behavior.

● Feeling of guilt

Guilt is usually defined as the sense of remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense. The reasons why you are feeling guilty after divorce is you probably think that you are the sole cause of the divorce. Understand that the other partner might have played a significant role resulting in a divorce and that is not entirely your mistake. Yes, you might have contributed to a certain extent but you are not entirely to blame. Many people start a relationship with different reasons and the relationships end due to many other reasons.

● Short term insomnia

There is tangible evidence to proclaim that the stability and quality of a romantic relationship has a huge impact on health associated with sleep. The impact of divorce on our sleeping pattern cannot be ignored. Divorce is likely to trigger many sleeping disorders including insomnia if not well taken care of. A research study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health shows that couples undergoing a divorce process are at a bigger risk of developing sleep disorders.
Stress associated with divorce is a major contributor to lack of sleep. Getting quality sleep is effective in helping to cope with the trauma caused by divorce. It is common for sleep-related issues to persist during and after divorce. However, after the divorce process, if finalized, the normal sleeping pattern is expected to resume. The adjustment is a bit easier in children than in adults.

● Memory problems

The brain responds to stress brought about by divorce by secreting certain hormones known as the corticosteroid from the adrenal gland. This hormone is known to cause short term memory loss according to studies and scientific experiments. Factors such as PTSD are also known to increase the secretion of the hormone further impeding your memory.

● Anxiety

According to the US Surgeon General close to 40 percent of people undergoing a divorce have reported a huge increase in symptoms of anxiety. Any major life change can result in anxiety but divorce is one of the biggest contributors. The major type of anxiety caused by divorce is separation anxiety. This the clinical word that refers to the state of emotional distress that is experienced when a person is separated from another person that they love or are close to.

Separation anxiety is common among children but can occur in adults too. There are many ways to deal with anxiety. Some people go for medication while others opt for other options such as therapy. The important thing is to know when your anxiety if getting out of hand and seek medical attention. You can also try exercising and going to the gym. Engaging in any physical activity has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and this can be an effective method for you too. Whatever the case don’t lose hope continue to fight if not for you then at least for your kids.

● Substance Abuse

Many people resort to drugs, alcohol and other harmful substances after a divorce. Substance abuse and drug addiction is also a major factor that leads to divorce. Substance abuse can also affect the outcome of your divorce in many ways. For instance, child custody. A judge can make the rulings of child custody depending on the sobriety of the parents are guardians involved. The following are ways in which substance abuse can affect the outcome of your divorce case in court.
The amount of alimony. Normally the amount of alimony allocated will only be affected if the spouse or partner negatively impacted on the finances of the household. A judge can make his or her decision to award a sober partner more cash is the affected partner uses a significant portion of the finances on drugs or any other substance.
Custody of the kids. The magistrate or judge hearing your divorce case can allocate more time if not all to the sober partner. this is because the primary concern in any divorce case is the children. Other fs includes the allocation and division of assets as well as the general outcome of the negotiation in the divorce. Understanding that no amount of alcohol or drugs can change your current situation is the first step in healing.

The process of recovering from PTSD after divorce

In life no situation is permanent. Today you might be grieving or trying to recover from an emotional breakdown caused by a divorce and tomorrow you are laughing and enjoying life. Recovering from PTSD can be challenging especially if you have no one to take care of you such as your spouse. However, there are simple ways that can help you fight PTSD after getting a divorce.

1. Join a support group

Understand that whatever has happened to you might have happened to other people as well. Go out and get a different perspective from other people who have experienced or are experiencing the same issue as you. At the support group, you will be able to meet people who will give you practical solutions that they have tried and worked. These ideas can help you deal with the situation that you are undergoing.

2. Understand that your divorce might be a traumatic event

Acknowledging that you are undergoing a serious traumatic event can just be a cure in itself. Many people continue to experience post-traumatic stress disorder because of their life in denial. Understand that the divorce you are going through is a serious violation of your trust and will be traumatic. However only you can pick yourself up and move on as there is more at stake than just the marriage that has ended.

3. Take medication if necessary

Traumatizing events often lead to other medical conditions such as depression and anxiety. When this gets out of hand, they can be detrimental to your health. Seek medical advice and follow the prescription to the later and get back the normal life that you deserve.

4. Grieve when you can

Divorce results in many losses of very many important things. The betrayal, loss of family and dignity, loss of love and safety that comes in being in a relationship are some of the things that you should grieve about.

5. Consider psychotherapy

Psychotherapy also is known as talk therapy is considered one of the best and effective methods of healing a variety of mental illness PTSD being leading the group. Find a good psychologist within your budget and start your therapy sessions today. This will go along way in setting your path to recovery.

6. Try relaxation techniques and workouts

Going swimming or yoga can boost your blood circulation in the central nervous system and the brain. They will boost your moods and make you feel happy and help you deal with your current situation with a more positive outlook.

Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need legal help with a divorce in Utah, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD


Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506