Psychological Effects of Divorce and How to Overcome Them

Your divorce may be the second most psychologically painful happening of your life after the death of a loved one.

Whether you initiated it or not, when your marriage ends, you embark on a journey of conflicting emotions ranging from uncertainty to relief. The upheaval can go on for years or perhaps for decades. This is because most people don’t have a clear roadmap on ways to process the loss, grieve and then slowly emerge on the other side.

While for some getting divorced is a welcome end to a toxic or abusive marriage, for many others, relationship disintegration causes deep psychological distress.

In this post, we shall navigate through the psychological effects of divorce and how to overcome them.

Psychological effects of divorce

1. A new phase of life

Divorce ushers you into a new phase of life. The changes can disrupt a person’s sense of self, cause profound disorientation and painful emotional upheaval.  This can cause;

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Deep insecurity
  • Acting in uncharacteristic and destructive ways
  • Having intrusive thoughts
  • Feelings of anxiety and depression

Such effects may prevent an individual from moving forward, envisioning a happy future for themselves, and experiencing life’s pleasures.

2. Eating disorders

A divorce can lead to eating disorders.

The stress of marital breakdown often leads to what is famously known as the “divorce diet”. The destructive psychological stress of divorce affects the brain’s limbic system (the brain seat of emotions), thus shutting down the appetite.

Others turn to food for emotional support leading to binge eating and overeating. For example, digging into cookies as you open mail from your ex-partner attorney thus you may indulge in binge eating to cope with the fear and anxiety associated with the divorce.

However, not all divorced persons experience eating disorders and not every eating disorder starts after divorce, however, people are more likely to develop an eating disorder after divorce.

3. Substance abuse

Whereas some people seek comfort in food, others with overwhelming distress may opt for alcohol and self-medicated drugs to relieve their psychological pain.

This is predominantly true for divorced men. It’s believed that divorced men drink significantly more than those in stable marriages.

When an individual indulges and plants a seed of drug abuse to heal the psychological effects of marriage dissolving, other problems are likely to emerge too. These include suicidal thoughts, depression, hopelessness

4. Unrealized dreams

Every couple lives their marriage in both the future and present tense. Their plans and thoughts are constantly on where they will be in maybe 5 -15yrs down the road.

But, divorce negates any realized or unrealized shared dreams, leaving you feeling empty, perplexed, and forced to adjust and learn how to build your brand-new life without your partner. This is why newly divorced people find it difficult to reconcile their past, realize their dreams, since they stay stuck in the past.

Healing the psychological effects of divorce

While going through, and immediately after a divorce, it’s imperative to know and constantly remind yourself that you will and can get over this difficult time, move on with your life and find happiness again. To do this;

1. Permit yourself to heal

Do you feel betrayed, bitter, devastated, crushed, lonely, empty, hurt, and damaged? Is the pain of your marriage dissolving causing you immobilized pain? If yes, fight on.

Yet, if despite your loss and devastation you feel like powering through and showing all you can conquer the debris of your shattered life and become a winner, then start by allowing yourself to undergo the healing process.

Permit yourself to feel the pain, don’t hold it back. Positive or negative emotions are normal, what’s not normal is holding onto them and not expressing and releasing what you feel. If you embrace it, the power of different emotions will crest, swell, and eventually subside, bringing  you a sense of peace and calm.

Join support groups, go for therapy and counseling, take a hot bath, nourish your body with nutritious foods, and surround yourself with positivity. Additionally, avoid undertaking the divorce process solo instead allow a lawyer, like the expert New Jersey divorce attorneys,  to handle the legal matters. This prevents you from regularly meeting your ex-spouse and gets your healing process underway.

2. Embrace healthy choices

When undergoing the psychological pain of divorce, healthy habits can easily fall by the wayside.

You may be binge eating, overeating, under eating and not getting enough sleep. Additionally, exercising may become past tense, and indulging in substance abuse may become your new norm.

But, if you don’t make healthy choices, your work of positively moving forward may be hindered. Choose to eat healthily, avoid using drugs and alcohol, get a new comfy bed, join the gym or a yoga studio. Anything to get you on the road to healthville.

3. Redefine yourself


Going through a marriage break-up means no more shared dreams and goals, a reality that can be frightening.

Many partners develop an over-reliance on their spouses over the course of the marriage to be their sounding board, cornerstone and foundation. Having to face life alone is scary. However, redefining your goals and dreams will lead to a positive outcome.

Exploring your untapped interests, working on dead dreams, taking up new activities and hobbies, will help you to learn who you are now. Learn to stay busy doing constructive things and enjoying your life now, having fun rather than dwelling on your past.

Cultivate new friendships, change your expectations, and avoid making hasty decisions. Remind yourself over and over again, that you have a chance to create a bright future, one that is uniquely yours.

The bottom line

Knowing the psychological effects of what to expect after a divorce won’t eliminate the negative emotions you feel. But, hopefully, this will help you navigate divorce complexities, successfully regroup and redefine your life. Keep reminding yourself the end goal is moving on and having a triumphant future full of satisfying interests and dreams.


About the Author

The law firm of Aiello, Harris, Marth, Tunnero & Schiffman, P.C. is proud of its nearly six decades of successfully representing clients with all kinds of legal matters throughout New Jersey. Since 1955, we have been providing strong representation and effective legal guidance to clients across New Jersey.

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