In the modern age, there is never a shortage of people offering statistics about one trend or another, and one of the most commonly cited concerns the most stressful life events we can go through. Divorce and separation is second only to the death of a spouse, and is ranked even higher than losing another family member or going to prison.
Yet at the same time, it is something that a growing number of us have to go through sooner or later. There have been plenty of headlines over recent years that US divorce rates are dropping, but these have to be taken in the context that marriage rates have also fallen at a similar rate.
It seems intuitively obvious that a divorce is likely to have an effect on your mental and physical wellbeing. But how might this manifest itself, and what help is available? Let’s find out.
Effects of divorce on health
Aside from the emotional upheaval, divorce means an uncertain tomorrow. The future you had planned no longer exists, and you are facing the world alone. Anxiety can often manifest itself in controlling behavior, and can lead to many of the additional conditions we will describe below.
When a marriage falls apart, it is common to feel like you are some sort of failure. The factors leading to the divorce will also have an effect. For example, if you cheated on your spouse, you will have feelings of guilt, while if your spouse cheated on you, it can have a huge impact on your self-confidence.
The Journal of Marriage and Family published a study in which it was observed that middle-aged people of both sexes are at greater risk of developing some form of cardiovascular disease post-divorce, when compared with married couples of the same age. The trend was particularly noticeable among the female population, possibly because stress leads to higher and more sustained levels of inflammation in women.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition that occurs when you have a combination of different conditions simultaneously. These relate to blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and other factors. This condition can in turn lead to diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Sleep disruption is enormously common among those who are going through a divorce. This might include trouble falling asleep, constantly waking in the night or having vivid nightmares. The National Sleep Foundation says that insomnia is a typical manifestation of depression, so you can see how the different medical conditions can all interrelate.
It sounds like a drastic term, but if you are a drinker, a smoker or even an occasional user of narcotics, your consumption and dependency is likely to increase if you are going through a divorce.
Help is at hand
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. One of the wonders of the internet age is that it helps us to realize that whatever seemingly incredible and life shattering experiences we are going through, there are others in the same boat. So, even if you do not have friends and family close to hand, make use of the divorce help and article resources on divorce that you can find online. Just knowing that what you are going through is something that millions of others have experienced and survived can be a huge weight off your shoulders.
Also, take the time to think objectively about what happened and the circumstances that led to the divorce. It is easy to say, “It’s because he ran off with another woman,” or even, “It’s because I was too focused on my career.” But it is seldom that simple.
Going out and baring your soul to your friend over a few drinks might feel therapeutic, but it will not present any real long-term solutions or insights. If there is only one moment in life when you decide to speak to a therapist, let this be it. On the one hand, it is never a bad thing to have some professional support from someone who has a degree of detachment. But also, this is the moment to really dig into what drew you into the relationship in the first place, and why it didn’t work out.
Critically, this will help you from simply repeating the cycle with somebody else another year or two down the line. It really can be the first step towards a new, healthy and bright future for the next stage in your life.