Everyone knows that the legal process of divorce is unlikely to be easy or stress-free – but just how hard is divorce on your physical and mental health? For some, it can be debilitating. Everyone going through divorce should be aware of how it might impact their overall health. With that in mind, a family attorney in Murfreesboro, Tennessee at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby discusses how divorce may affect your physical and mental health.
Common Health Issues During a Divorce
Unfortunately, there is no way to know how your divorce will affect you until you go through it; however, there are some common physical and mental health issues to watch out for if you are heading into a divorce, such as:
- Weight Gain or Loss. Weight gain or weight loss is something we all tend to associate with divorce; however, you may be surprised to learn that men are more likely to gain weight after a divorce than women. A study in Social Science & Medicine found that divorce more often leads to a less healthy diet for men. Men frequently turn to comfort foods during the divorce process, resulting in weight gain. Women are more likely to skip meals because of the emotional impact a divorce may have, often leading to weight loss. Either way, you put yourself at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer if you are not eating healthy.
- Sleep Problems. Changes in your diet, chronic stress, and emotional turmoil can lead to problems sleeping during a divorce. Failing to get enough sleep often creates more stress, causing an endless cycle. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology found that just 24 hours of sleep deprivation significantly increases the stress hormone levels in your body. If you start to feel tired all the time, cannot fall asleep at night, or realize you are routinely getting less than eight hours of sleep a night, talk to your doctor about options to help you get enough sleep. Something as simple as meditation or yoga may do the trick.
- Depression. Some people experience depression for the first time during a divorce while others who have struggled with depression in the past can be triggered by divorce and experience depression once again. Depression can get worse if the terms of the divorce are not what you wanted them to be. For example, if your financial situation dramatically worsens or you lose a custody battle. Be sure to watch for the signs of depression and seek help if you spot them. Signs might include (but are not limited to) sleeping too much, constantly sad, weight gain or loss, general feeling of futility.
- Chronic Stress. Even a relatively amicable divorce involves some stress. An adversarial and contentious divorce can result in chronic stress, posing a threat to your overall well-being and to your physical and mental health. When the body is stressed, it releases the hormone cortisol. Overexposure to cortisol can disrupt nearly every system in the body, contributing to serious health conditions such as anxiety, heart disease, depression, and digestive problems. In addition, ongoing stress boosts blood pressure and kicks the immune system’s normal inflammatory response into overdrive. Excess inflammation can cause anything from a common cold to an autoimmune disorder. Chronic stress can also have a negative impact on your exercise and eating habits.
- Substance Abuse. While substance abuse is a leading cause of divorce, the converse is also true. Divorce can also lead to substance abuse. One study found that divorce increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder sevenfold for women and sixfold for men. It can be tempting to “drown your sorrows” in alcohol or other substances. Resisting that temptation is the key to coming out of the divorce process healthier than you went into the process.
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