Depression After Divorce: The Science Behind It
Divorce represents an opportunity to move forward into a new chapter in life. However, some deal with an initial bout of depression in the immediate aftermath of divorce. Why does depression occur after divorce, and what can we do to cope with it? Let’s explore some of the science behind this phenomenon.
Post-Divorce Depression by the Numbers
Not everyone experiences depression following a divorce. However, studies have actually identified predictors—that some are more at risk than others. A couple interesting facts:
- People with a prior history of depression are roughly six times more likely to experience post-divorce depression, compared to those with no prior history. (Source: Association of Psychological Science)
- Men are approximately twice as likely to experience post-divorce depression as women. (Source: Psychcentral)
- Men tend to have a more difficult time with divorce overall, and tend to remarry more quickly. (Source: com)
Why Does Post-Divorce Depression Occur?
While scientific explanations remain elusive, we do understand that any dissolution of a deep-seated relationship can be traumatic at first. Since divorce is the death of a relationship, many people experience the same cycle of grief with a divorce as they would with death (i.e., denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance).
Some even experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The author of the study reported in PsychCentral above, Michelle Rotermann, suggested that men may be more likely to experience depression because “men have fewer social supports and social support does seem to play a role…one of their main sources of social support is their partner, their spouse, and now she is no longer there.”
For clarity, Healthline also notes that, although post-divorce depression may resemble clinical depression, the two aren’t identical: “The depression that occurs due to traumatic life events such as divorce is different from clinical depression. It’s called adjustment disorder or situational depression.”
Tips for Recovering from Post-Divorce Depression
- Process your feelings via a support group, journaling or other therapeutic practices.
- Eat right and exercise. Physical health promotes mental health.
- Discipline yourself to socialize, even if you don’t feel like it. Being around caring people helps you not to isolate.
- Consult a therapist if the depression persists or gets worse.
Here’s the good news: It does get better. The vast majority of people eventually move past depression into a new season of vibrancy after their divorce becomes final—even in the most contentious cases.
If you need expert representation and compassionate support during a divorce, Freed Marcroft can help. Contact our office for more information.