Divorce & Depression: Coping Skills To Make It Through
By: Nicole Beasley
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Traci Ball, LLC
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, you may become depressed. Depression after divorce is very common, even among those who ended the relationship willingly. 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.
Depression after divorce is not the same as clinical depression. They are related because it is a situational or an adjustment period. This is usually called situational depression or adjustment disorder.
Although depression after divorce is not clinical, it still has many of the same features. It can be difficult to distinguish whether symptoms are part of clinical 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 characteristics of situational depression include:
- Lack of appetite
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- 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 depression due to divorce are also likely to exhibit certain behaviors. These may include ignoring responsibilities, avoiding social engagements, a drop-off in work performance, or fighting. If you notice that you have begun to completely cut yourself off from everyone around you and stay indoors most of the time, it could be a sign that you have depression.
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 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.
There are many types of psychotherapy that are used to treat situational depression. The most common form of therapy used for this type of depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Your therapist works 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.
There are two types of medications for situational depression. The first group consists of selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These include common antidepressants such as Zoloft and Celexa. The other type contains dopamine reuptake blockers, such as Wellbutrin. Your doctor will likely only prescribe antidepressants if your symptoms are severe, if you are at risk of suicide, or if your symptoms are prolonged. You and your doctor will carefully monitor your symptoms so that medication can be decreased 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 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. It is paramount that when it is time to stop the medication, it is done so gradually.
Coping With Depression After Divorce
While being treated by a doctor or therapist, or when you are supporting your efforts during 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 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 part of your coping toolbox. You're going to have a lot of thoughts and feelings about your marriage, your divorce, and life going forward. 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.
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 a meaningful journey. 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
Research has found that at least 30 minutes of exercise each day can 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 as healthy as possible. When depressed, it is common to crave "comfort foods," most of which are high in fat and sugar. Eating these types of foods will drag you down and ultimately make your depression symptoms worse. You could also gain weight, further impacting your mood. Try to limit alcohol use and keep healthy snacks around. If you must go out of your way to eat comfort food, you will be less likely to indulge in it.
Take Time for You
In all the hustle and bustle of life and adjustment, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Make sure that you are taking some time out for yourself 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 daily. This may seem difficult at first, especially if you have children to care for, but it will help 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. Let people help you with pre-made 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. It is important that you continue to get out and see people during this time. Getting out of the house and around other people will help take your mind off what you are going through and give you a mental break. You may also enjoy a mood boost with socialization. Don't just surround yourself with those who will lend an ear to listen when you need it. You also need friends that will help you take your mind off it completely.
Your Next Steps
If you are recently divorced and depression is getting the best of you, a priority should be to ask for help. Talk to a therapist or psychiatrist as soon as possible about your symptoms so that you can start recovery. After that, keeping up with therapy appointments and fulfilling all assignments given to you by your therapist will see you through this difficult time and into the other side where you can be happy once again.
If you are worried about the inconvenience of regular appointments with a therapist, there are 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 advantageous because they are available 24/7/365.
All you need to use BetterHelp is a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer. You have the option of utilizing voice, text, or video chat. You can participate from anywhere and anytime. Don't hesitate and allow your depression symptoms to get worse. Contact BetterHelp today and get started with therapy that will help you live life to the fullest.
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