Adjustment Disorder, including situational depression or anxiety, is a short term condition that arises when a person is having difficulty adjusting to a major life change, event or loss. Divorce is one of the major life events that can cause Adjustment Disorder and a significant percentage of individuals going through divorce may experience either situational depression or anxiety at some point in the process. It can also affect the children of the divorcing couple.
Adjustment Disorder causes emotional and/or behavioral symptoms that may include hopelessness, sadness, frequent crying, anxiety, headaches, isolation, stomach aches, insomnia, exhaustion, loss of appetite or binge eating, increased use of alcohol or other drugs, etc. While children and teens may exhibit more behavioral symptoms, such as fighting or acting out, the adult experience may be more emotional and manifest itself in sadness or nervousness.
In an adjustment disorder, the reaction to the stressor exceeds the norm of what is expected. In addition, the symptoms may interfere with the person’s ability to function, including sleep disruption, inability to work, and interference with school.
Parties going through divorce should understand that when a marriage is ending, it is not uncommon or abnormal to experience Adjustment Disorder. Although there is no way to prevent it, it can be treated through counseling. In some cases, a treating physician may prescribe a short term anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication, or a sleep aid.
There is no shame in seeking help to navigate the difficult emotional waters of divorce. If you feel overwhelmed by your divorce process, seeking the assistance of a mental health professional may ultimately help you to manage your emotional pain, to help you deal with the legal issues with less emotional interference, and to help you to help your children cope better as well.