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Post-Divorce Depression: Causes, Risks, and Treatment

sad woman with crossed arms.

When a marriage falls apart, it can significantly impact a person’s life. One common health hazard that often accompanies divorce is depression. Feeling sad or down for a brief time after divorce is a normal reaction to the breakup of a marriage. However, an increasing number of divorced people stay in a depressive state for a long time and can’t recover on their own.

If you suspect you might suffer from depression and are looking for ways to fight it off, read on. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of depression, its signs, and different ways to cope with it.

What is Post-Divorce Depression?

Someone who has gone through a divorce recently may experience post-divorce depression.

According to the statistics on divorces in the U.S., approximately 40% to 50% of couples separate, meaning there is one divorce for every two to three marriages. Research from 2018 suggests that people experiencing such emotionally challenging events as divorce are up to nine times more likely to experience depression.

It’s natural to feel anxious or down after a divorce, but if these feelings stick around and start causing problems in your daily life, it could be a sign of post-divorce depression.

Check the following tell-tale signs and symptoms of depression if you think you might be depressed.

Symptoms of Depression

  • You don’t find enjoyment in activities and hobbies that used to make you happy.
  • You have a drastic change in appetite, eating much more or less than usual.
  • Your self-esteem is low, and you constantly criticize yourself.
  • You have insomnia or other sleeping issues.
  • You can’t concentrate on anything.
  • You’re always irritated and annoyed.
  • You don’t have the energy to do anything (e.g., go to work or get up from bed).
  • You often cry without reason.
  • You have suicidal thoughts.
  • You feel pessimistic and don’t believe that good things are coming your way.

If you have five or more symptoms from the list, you might be depressed. Also, men and women might have different signs of depression. In particular, women have low self-esteem and feel guilty about past events more often than men. By contrast, men have insomnia and irritability more frequently than women.

What Causes Post-Divorce Depression?

Post-divorce depression can have various causes. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Emotional upheaval

Divorce triggers intense emotions like sadness, anger, and disappointment. These emotions are most often associated with depression if they linger. Studies suggest that people with high neuroticism levels and who exhibit melancholy are more prone to depression after divorce.

  • Financial instability

Financial challenges accompanying divorce include dividing assets, paying child support, alimony, or insurance changes. All these factors create uncertainty and contribute to developing depression.

  • Lifestyle changes

After a divorce, your life can change a lot, and adjusting to these changes can be tricky. It’s common to feel like you’ve lost your sense of identity and purpose in life. You don’t know what to do with your free time or who you are in this new reality.

  • Social isolation

When people divorce, their friendships and social groups can change. For instance, you don’t see your partner’s family often, or mutual friends may take sides and keep their distance. Reduction in social connections may lead to feeling alone, disconnected, and eventually depressed.

How Post-Divorce Depression Affects Well-Being

Post-divorce depression, like other forms of depression, can significantly affect your health and well-being. Recognizing the risks equips you to deal with the consequences.

The most dangerous and common risks of post-divorce depression include the following:

  • Deterioration of Mental Health

Though depression is already a complicated mental condition, it may also cause other mental disorders. Research links it to anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and specific phobias. Therefore, in addition to an extensive list of issues like insomnia and mood swings, a person might experience other, more severe complications.

  • Physical Health Problems

When you feel stressed after a divorce, it can also take a toll on your physical health. Depression can affect various body parts, including your heart, kidneys, and immune system. You may feel tired, lose weight, get headaches, or have problems with your stomach. These are common physical symptoms associated with post-divorce depression.

  • Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Some people might use alcohol, drugs, or other substances to alleviate their post-divorce depression. However, this behavior only makes their physical and mental health worse and can lead to irreversible brain, liver, and kidney damage.

  • Suicidal Thoughts

Depression is often linked to suicide and is considered the leading risk factor. People suffering from depression often feel emotional pain and numbness caused by physiological problems in the nervous system. Often, these individuals may not even realize they are experiencing a condition that can be treated medically and psychologically.

It is critical to address your post-divorce depression before it worsens. Let’s explore the coping strategies and treatment options for post-divorce depression.

How to Treat and Overcome Post-Divorce Depression?

The severity of your depression usually determines which treatment strategy to use. For example, medication may be unnecessary for light cases of post-divorce depression. However, suggestions for things like a healthy diet and socializing are universally beneficial for everyone, no matter how severe the case is.

Consult a Mental Health Professional

For starters, talk to a psychologist or mental health professional and let them identify whether your depression is clinical. If so, they may prescribe you medication or recommend psychotherapy for your recovery.

Add Physical Exercise to Your Day

When you exercise, your brain releases happiness hormones (endorphins) that make you feel good. They improve your mood, help your brain adapt, and enhance its functions, sharpening your cognitive abilities and regulating emotions.

Start a Healthy Diet

Believe it or not, specific food can help you fight off depression. It is best to get your vitamin D from salmon, eggs, milk, liver, etc. However, be mindful of potential allergies and don’t take this vitamin as a supplement since it’s better absorbed from natural foods. Next, you’ll need a mineral called selenium, which is found in seafood, brown rice, and nuts. Any vegetables are always a good idea.

Seek Support from Family and Friends

Isolation is one of the contributing factors to depression, so don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends. Also, socialize more. Ideally, it would be best to meet a friend face-to-face. However, if that’s not an option, talk on the phone or communicate online at least once daily.


Post-divorce depression is a widespread emotional challenge that shouldn’t be left untreated. Moreover, you don’t have to navigate this challenging period alone. Lean on the help available from psychologists, family, friends, and support groups. Also, remember that early diagnosis may help prevent more severe consequences and contribute to speedy recovery.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Natalie Maximets is a certified life coach and an expert in cognitive-behavior therapy critical to treating addiction. Natalie is also a contributing writer at OnlineDivorce.com, where you can read more posts on improving communication in romantic and family relationships.

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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