Your divorce is final and it’s time to move on, but you can’t seem to stop re-hashing it all in your head. Just about anything can trigger a thought that takes your mind and body back to the terrible memories of your failed marriage and bitter divorce. If you’re still pissed off all the time, and dealing with sleepless nights, headaches, stress, and body pain, you may be suffering the effects of PTSD after divorce.
What Causes Symptoms of PTSD After Divorce
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that PTSD is a reaction to a traumatic event, including experiencing or witnessing natural disasters, combat, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault or other life-threatening events.
If your marriage was a disaster, and the divorce was a long, losing battle, you may have experienced your whole life spinning out of your control. The sustained emotional trauma was real, and has lasting effects.
Let’s be honest, most divorces are not easy. You enter into a bond with someone who you plan on building a life with. The fear of things falling apart never enters your mind. Then the unthinkable happens: one day the divorce papers are signed, and life as you know it is over. While that thought alone is traumatic, it is the in-between times that leave lasting scars.
The arguing and fighting takes its toll. The mistrust, the understanding your marriage is ending, or even worse; it all buries deep in your subconscious. Then when these thoughts and feelings are pulled back to the surface, those reactions bring back some extreme emotions. When this happens and you are powerless to stop it, this might be a form of PTSD.
Signs and Symptoms Common to PTSD
While reviewing the signs, remember this is not an all-inclusive list. You may see yourself in some or all of these. Maybe you don’t associate with any but there are different symptoms for you. In either case, the things you are feeling are real, and deserve attention.
Recurrent Distressing Memories
If you’ve become consumed by remembering past upsetting events from your marriage and divorce, and you find yourself getting upset over and over again, it may be a symptom of PTSD.
Can’t sleep? Do you stay up all hours of the night even with an early morning alarm looming? Does your mind race into the wee hours of the morning with thoughts of what you could have done differently? Insomnia is linked to suffering from trauma.
Sustained or Uncontrollable Anger
After my divorce, I was angry constantly. There was little happiness or joy in my life outside of my children. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the life I once had and was now gone and every day the anger grew. I finally reached out because if I didn’t, the fire inside me would have consumed me.
How often do you feel defeated and alone? Depression is real. Your pain is real. Feelings of defeat and isolation can lead to severe depression after a tough divorce. There is no shame in accepting depression as a by-product of divorce. Understanding this as another sign of PTSD will lead you to recovery.
Body Aches and Pains
Body aches and pains tend to appear right along with depression or PTSD. Your body reacts to stress in different ways. One is chronic pain that can last until your stress is dealt with.
These are just a few of the many signs of PTSD. Others include: panic attacks, hyperventilating, flashbacks, and issues having or starting future personal relationships.
What You Need to Know
Whether or not you have developed full-blown PTSD after divorce, if you are experiencing many of these signs, you deserve to use every resource you can find to move on to a happy and stable life.
Now that I can look back and recognize many of these symptoms, I can say with certainty that I suffered with symptoms of PTSD after divorce. After many years, I have come to a place in my life where none of these bother me anymore. However, if I would have recognized these symptoms much earlier, I could have saved myself and my children a lot of struggling. This is why you are here, and we are understanding PTSD together.
I am not a psychologist. I can show you from personal experiences of my life and I can point you in what I feel are right directions. But, to beat this, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and get a little tough. Are you up for it?
Solutions for PTSD
So what can I do Dwight? I don’t want this to control me but I feel powerless to stop it. My friend, there is good news and greater news. You can, with a lot of hard work, overcome symptoms of PTSD after divorce. There is a life out there for you that is free from debilitating trauma.
It won’t be easy. There is nothing wrong with getting help, even at a professional level, and I encourage it. At the end of the day, you know what works for you.
Acknowledge the Stress
A good starting point is acknowledgment. You have seen the symptoms in yourself, it’s now time to accept them for what they are. By understanding what has brought you to this point, you can begin the process of healing.
Research-based ideas published by Psychology Today emphasizes the need to take care of yourself after a rough breakup.
I want to start with what you can do for yourself, before we get into what someone else can do. Taking care of yourself should start now. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Get active – Exercise releases endorphins which are natural mood enhancers and help with pain.
- Eat better – Studies upon studies have been done on the benefits of eating healthier. Bottom line: it will help the body while you are focusing on the mind.
- Connect with yourself – Whatever your preference: meditation, yoga, tai chi, fishing, take some time to connect to yourself and listen to what you’re saying.
- Be prepared to move forward – There is no going around this, you must go through it. Learn, understand, and be open to lessons learned
- Take it easy – Resting, getting extra sleep, and taking time out to relax are all positive steps to help you
Professional Help and Support
Getting off your butt and getting professional help can be a daunting task. Asides from the fact that we men are taught not to let anyone help us when it comes to problems, depression makes it hard to make the effort to do anything. Do it anyway.
Never take professional help for granted.
Military veterans return from war suffering from PTSD every day. They live with the terror and troubles it brings. Many have sought help, sadly many more do not. Traumatic events in our lives need not control us nor keep us from living productive lives. It is time for a change.
Do this for yourself – You’re Worth It
Divorce is rated right up there among the most traumatic events a man can face. Is it any wonder we now understand the impact it can have and the havoc it can cause?
Take some time to evaluate what you have gone through since your divorce. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD after divorce, admit it. Then take active steps to conquer what is holding you back. You’re worth it.
Does this sound like you? Tell us how you’re dealing with symptoms similar to PTSD in the comments below.
You’re not the only guy struggling with life after divorce. That’s why Real Men Join Divorce Support Groups. Maybe you never saw it coming? Check out How To Keep it Together When Divorce Blindsides You.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
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