Divorce & Depression: Coping Skills To Make It Through

By Nicole Beasley

Updated September 10, 2019

It is no secret that divorce and depression often go hand in hand. If you are struggling with the emotional loss and grief of divorce, it is likely that you may become depressed. Depression after divorce is very common, even among those who ended the relationship willingly. But this difficult time of adjustment won't last forever. Here is what you need to know about divorce and depression and how to make it through to the other side.

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Depression After Divorce

Depression after divorce is not the same as clinical depression. Divorce and depression go together because it is situational or an adjustment period. This is usually called situational depression or adjustment disorder.

Although depression after divorce is not clinical depression, it still has many of the same features. It can be difficult to distinguish whether symptoms are part of clinical depression or situational depression. If you have never had depression before, your doctor will likely treat it as an adjustment disorder. Only if symptoms do not improve over time would they consider a clinical depression diagnosis.

Divorce Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of depression after divorce are very similar to symptoms of clinical depression. The most common symptoms of situational depression are:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Spells of uncontrollable crying
  • Problems concentrating or focusing
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and pessimism
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

In addition to these classic symptoms of depression, those with adjustment disorder or divorce depression are also likely to exhibit certain behaviors. These may include ignoring responsibilities, avoiding social engagements, have a drop in performance at work, or fighting. If you notice that you have begun to completely cut yourself off from everyone around you and stay in most of the time, it could be a sign that you have depression after divorce.

Divorce Depression Treatment

Treatment for situational depression is much the same as that for clinical depression, with one important difference. With clinical depression, medication is generally a must and is combined with therapy to help control the bouts of depression that can occur even while on medication. On the other hand, situational depression puts more importance on therapy and uses medication to control symptoms only when they are severe or prolonged.

Psychotherapy

There are many different types of psychotherapy that are used to treat situational depression. The most common form of therapy to be used for this type of depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Your therapist will work with you to identify problems with your thinking to help you control your thoughts and behavior in a conscious way. Your therapist will also be there to support you and help you take steps toward adjustment.

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Medications

There are two types of medications that are prescribed for situational depression. The first group are selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and include the most common antidepressants such as Zoloft and Celexa. The other type is dopamine reuptake blockers, such as Wellbutrin. Your doctor will likely only prescribe antidepressants if your symptoms are severe, you are at risk of suicide, or your symptoms are prolonged. You and your doctor will carefully monitor your symptoms so that you can stop taking the medication after the adjustment period is over.

It is important to note that you should never stop taking antidepressants without first talking to your doctor. Even if you are feeling better and you don't feel they are necessary, wait for instructions from your doctor before stopping the medication. SSRI withdrawal can be very burdensome and even painful, and it is important that when it is time to stop the medication that you are weaned off appropriately.

Coping With Depression After Divorce

While you are waiting for appointments with a doctor or therapist, or supporting your efforts at treatment, it is a good idea to learn some coping skills to help you through this difficult time. It is important that you take time for yourself, and that you make sure all of your needs are being met. Here are some things you can do to change your lifestyle or build new habits to help you cope with depression after divorce.

Write A Journal

Journaling can be an important tool in your coping toolbox. You're going to have a lot of thoughts and feelings about your marriage, your divorce, and life after divorce. As you go through this process, it is a good idea to write down your thoughts and emotions in a journal. Even if you have a good support system, sometimes you need to be able to let it all out without a filter. A journal allows you to do that.

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Another advantage of journaling is that you can see how far you've come. The person you were in your marriage will not be the person you are after you adjust to your divorce. It is an important journey, and when you reach the end, you'll be able to look back and see just how far you've come. During those times, when everything seems hopeless, you can go back and see what you have accomplished in personal growth and get yourself back on track.

Take Care Of Your Body

Researchers have found that if you get at least 30 minutes of exercises each day, it will relieve the symptoms of depression. You can go for a walk, lift some weights, do aerobics, dance around the house, or even walk around the mall. The important thing is that you get up and moving for at least a half-hour every single day.

It is also important that you eat healthy as much as possible. When depressed, it is common to crave "comfort foods," most of which are high in fat, sugar, or both. Eating a lot of these types of foods will actually drag you down, and ultimately, it will make your depression symptoms worse. In addition, you could gain weight, which could further impact your mood. Try to limit alcohol use and keep healthy snacks around. If you have to go out of your way to eat comfort food, you will be less likely to eat a lot of it.

Take Time For You

In all the hustle and bustle of life and adjustment, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget to take care of yourself. Make sure that you are taking some time out for yourself each and every day. Even if it is as simple as reading in a bubble bath for an hour, you should be doing something to pamper yourself every day. This may seem difficult at first, especially if you have children to care for, but it will help to keep you sane as you go through this adjustment period.

Ask For Help

Don't be afraid to ask for help. You will feel more tired and fatigued during this time of adjustment. Let people help you with make-ahead meals, extra babysitting, or household chores. When you are feeling better, you can always return the favor. You should have a support network around you that allows you to get the help you need when you need it.

Get Out Of The House

When you are depressed, the last thing you want to do is socialize. Yet it is important that you continue to socialize during this time. Getting out of the house and around other people will help take your mind off of what you are going through and give you a mental break. You will also enjoy a mood boost with socialization. Don't just surround yourself with people who will provide an ear to listen when you need it. You also need friends that will help you take your mind off of it completely.

Your Next Steps

If you are recently divorced and depression is getting the best of you, your first priority is to ask for help. You should talk to a therapist or psychiatrist as soon as possible about your symptoms so that you can start treatment. After that, keeping up with your therapy appointments and fulfilling all assignments given to you by your therapist will see you through this difficult time and out into the other side where you can be happy once again.

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If you are worried about the inconvenience of regular appointments with a therapist, there are some options that can help you. Online counseling platforms like BetterHelp offer a unique and convenient way to participate in therapy. BetterHelp is more affordable than traditional therapy options. It is also more convenient because they are available 24/7/365.

All you need to be able to use BetterHelp is a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer. You have the option of doing a voice chat, text chat, or video chat. You can participate from anywhere, anytime, whenever it is convenient for you. Don't hesitate and allow your depression symptoms to get worse. Contact BetterHelp today to get started with therapy that will help you overcome.


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