Divorce and Mental Health: The Impact of Separation

Photo of a worried man pressing hands together

Change is scary for everyone, and when you’re contending with a separation or divorce on the horizon, that is a big cause for worry and anxiety in many individuals. Your life as you know it is going to change, and it may feel like it is for the worse depending on your situation. Divorce proceedings can have a huge impact on existing mental health concerns or be a trigger for new issues down the road.

The truth is, there is a link between divorce and mental health. Specific mental health risk factors exist during divorce, and the grim reality of today’s divorce suicide rate cannot be ignored. However, even if it seems like there is no possible happy ending, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you have these dark feelings, you should contact your doctor immediately. Help is available. You can get through this. You just have to ask for help.

Why Do People Divorce?

Divorce is often the result of multiple factors, some of which include conflicts with money, lack of intimacy, lack of compatibility, communication issues, consistent conflict, mental health concerns such as addiction, abusive behavior, or infidelity.  Of these, basic incompatibility, infidelity and financial conflict are the chief culprits. Such infidelity can make it extremely difficult for the betrayed spouse to trust the cheating spouse, which may ultimately cause them to break up. For this reason, it may come as no surprise that infidelity remains a chief reason for divorce and the mental health issues associated with it. This is why I will often recommend clients seek counseling and support, either as a couple or individually, to have professional mental health guidance through such conflict.

Other common reasons for the dissolution of a marriage today range from poor communication to constant arguing and even unrealistic expectations. All of these situations can make it hard for two spouses to continue to cope with each other in the years ahead. In the legal field, we also broadly identify “irreconcilable differences” as a broad way to describe the most day-to-day causes of a separation or divorce, whether it’s about disparate parenting styles and goals or drifting apart generally. 

The Physical and Mental Health Effects of Divorce

I see the stress and anxiety caused by divorce daily, and my job as your attorney is to take as much of the burden off your plate as possible while I pursue the fairest outcome for your case. If my clients feel as though their physical and mental health are being negatively affected by their divorce, I cannot provide medical advice. The following information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the recommendations of your primary care physician or therapist.

Studies have shown that the risk of coronary issues heightens as a result of the stress caused by divorce. Other physical effects of divorce range from a weakened immune system to weight loss or gain, metabolic problems, and potentially digestion issues.

From an emotional standpoint, divorce’s effects can include the following:

  • Identity crisis
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Guilt

Divorce and Mental Health Risk Factors

Today’s major biophysical mental health risk factors during divorce include using drugs and alcohol, not getting enough sleep, and having a family history of mental health issues. Meanwhile, psychological risk factors include having low self-esteem. In addition, social risk factors include being abused in your marriage and not having many supportive friends. Finally, spiritual risk factors may come into play as well.

When it comes to your likelihood of getting divorced in general, there are a few major divorce risk factors to be aware of. Studies have indicated individuals are at a higher risk of separating or divorcing their partners if:

  • Their parents got divorced.
  • They have a history of separating or divorcing their partner.
  • Their drinking habits are different from their partner’s.
  • They married young.
  • They had children early in the marriage or partnership.

Unfortunately, the abovementioned divorce risk factors contribute to the current divorce suicide rate, which is especially high for men compared with women. According to the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the suicide rate among divorced individuals in the United States is around 2.4 times higher than the rate for people who are married.

In light of the above, it is paramount that if you’re going through a divorce, you realize that a link does exist between divorce and your mental health, and that you seek the support of a licensed mental health professional to help support your mental well-being during and after this time. I have seen clients thrive after divorce in their lives, careers, and new relationships, particularly if they sought help from a counselor to help them get their lives on track.

How to Take Care of Your Mental and Emotional Health During Divorce

Individuals who have mental disorders have been shown to have higher divorce rates. In addition, many researchers have reported the negative effects of divorce on people’s mental and physical health.

Given the above, when you are going through divorce, it is critical that you eat healthy foods from the start. Weight regulation and proper nutrition can assist you in experiencing both physical and mental stability so that you can better cope with your divorce.

Consider also employing breathing techniques and exercising, which can help you to manage your stress and get a better night’s sleep. Furthermore, avoid consuming alcohol and drugs, as this will help you to better maintain your mental and physical health. Healthier alternatives to drugs include going hiking, cooking, practicing meditation, playing sports, and creating works of art.

Criminal Defense in Family Law Matters

Unfortunately, if contested or criminal allegations are looped into your divorce proceedings, your mental and emotional health can adversely be impacted as well. For instance, perhaps you have to file a restraining order against your spouse during the divorce proceeding, or maybe you are facing both domestic violence charges and a divorce at the same time.

If you have suffered domestic abuse and therefore have filed a restraining order against your spouse, it’s paramount that you accurately identify the abuse or threats you’ve encountered. An attorney can help you to make sure that all details relevant to your case are included in your order before you submit it to the court.

Conversely, if you believe that you have been falsely accused of domestic abuse, several defenses are available to help you to protect your best interests in court. For instance, you may claim self-defense if you believe you had to protect yourself against your spouse. In addition, you might claim that your spouse lied about the abuse you inflicted on him or her.

When it comes to resources for domestic abuse, many counties and cities have domestic violence shelters and help centers available to help victims. 

California organizations like the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence can help with pinpointing local programs that can provide assistance. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can also provide support (just call 1-800-799-SAFE).

How an Attorney Can Help You As You Navigate Divorce and Your Mental Health

The reality is, family law cases are always hard. For this reason, it is critical that you find an attorney who understands the connection between divorce and mental health. Your attorney should understand the mental health risk factors during divorce, how these impact the divorce suicide rate, and how to help clients find mental health resources to help them through such concerns.

For starters, the attorney you choose should be passionate about personalizing and customizing your case to meet your unique legal and emotional needs. Look for an attorney who is willing to meet with you at the most convenient location for you to discuss your family law issues. As an example, an attorney could meet with you at your home, virtually, at your workplace, or in an office setting to discuss divorce or child custody.

Other possible issues that the right attorney can go over with you include contempt hearings, restraining orders, and even prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.

Also, make sure that your chosen attorney offers you a free initial consultation. This consultation can give you a good idea about how the attorney views divorce and mental health. You’ll also learn how the attorney can help you to navigate your family law matter with confidence.

Receive Reliable Legal Support During Your Divorce in San Diego Today

As you navigate divorce and mental health challenges, including your divorce risk factors, you may understandably feel a range of emotions. Perhaps you are afraid of the consequences, or maybe you feel that you do not know enough to take action. It’s possible that you may even be undecided about how to find legal representation.

You may be worried about where your child should stay while a custody hearing is going on. Or, you may be wondering how to respond when you learn that your loved one has placed a restraining order on you. I am passionate about and adept at addressing your most pressing emotional issues as you embark on the divorce process. In addition, note that I will be the only one handling the details of your case; you will not have to discuss your case with a receptionist or paralegal.

Get in touch with me today to learn more about the link between divorce and mental health, as well as how I can help you to get through the difficulty of your divorce as quickly and easily as possible.

Also, if you or a loved one is having a mental health emergency, please contact 911. In addition, note that I am not a licensed mental health professional, and the content here related to divorce and mental health is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace diagnosis or treatment by a psychologist or primary care physician.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.