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PTSD After Divorce: Signs & How to Get Help

Sad woman crying during psychotherapy at professional clinic

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur when a person experiences a traumatic event. Not every trauma happens in a military setting or a car crash. Divorce can be extremely challenging emotionally, especially when separating from a mentally or physically abusive spouse. If you are going through a divorce or recently finalized a divorce and are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues, it is important to seek the help of a trained professional and take steps to keep yourself healthy. Below, our experienced and compassionate New Jersey family law attorney discusses some of the signs of divorce-related PTSD and steps you can take to get healthy.

Can Divorce Cause PTSD?

PTSD was originally associated with combat veterans dealing with the fallout from military service. The definition has changed over time and expanded to include other events. In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the standard handbook for mental disorders, PTSD is specifically defined as requiring something physically harmful or life-threatening. A person divorcing from a physically or sexually abusive spouse, for example, can certainly suffer PTSD from those experiences.

Moreover, medical researchers have found that the stress and emotional fallout from a divorce, absent physical trauma, can lead to symptoms similar to PTSD. Whatever the technical definition may be, if you are experiencing PTSD-like symptoms after a divorce, it is important to take them seriously and seek help.

PTSD Symptoms

PTSD and “post-dissolution PTSS” (post-traumatic stress symptoms) can manifest in a variety of ways. Some of the symptoms commonly experienced by people after divorce include:

  • Feeling isolated
  • Oppressively negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Decreased interest in activities, including work, recreational activities, and interpersonal socializing
  • Mood changes including irritability and aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nightmares
  • Risky, destructive, or erratic behavior
  • Exaggerated self-blame or blame of others for events

For a typical diagnosis, a person must be suffering one or more of these symptoms for at least a month. If you are suffering from any of the above for a prolonged time, you could be suffering from PTSS or PTSD.

Getting Help After a Divorce

After your divorce, it is of vital importance to take care of your mental health as much as any other aspect of your wellbeing. We strongly recommend seeing a licensed therapist, grief counselor, or psychiatrist to discuss your situation and your feelings. Group counseling is available both in-person and online, as well as individual counselors who specialize in grief therapy and relationship counseling. There are also counselors who specialize in PTSD and other similar conditions.

There are, in fact, counselors who specialize in post-divorce counseling. These counselors will help you boost your self-esteem, improve your self-confidence, and get on with your life following your divorce. They can help you address residual feelings towards your ex (whether positive or negative or both) and help you work through any concerns you have about your children, including feelings of guilt, helplessness, anger, disassociation, or resentment. After a divorce, no feelings are inappropriate.

Look to your health insurance to find what counseling services might be covered by your insurance. Even if you cannot find a provider through your insurance, or if you lack insurance, many therapists and counselors operate on a sliding scale of payment depending on the means of the client. Ask your friends and family for recommendations, and ask other doctors you know for recommendations of someone who specializes in what you need. An experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer is likely to have some good recommendations for post-divorce counselors as well.

You can also shop around online for therapists, although be careful with trusting reviews or recommendations of online databases. Do your research, get a feel for any possible options, and try to find someone who is qualified and who appeals to you personally.

Call for Help With a New Jersey Family Law Matter

If you need compassionate and effective legal help with divorce, premarital agreements, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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