Why does divorce create extra challenges for mental health?
Its mental health awareness month, and if you are struggling, you’re in good company. Single parents are the group hardest-hit by the pandemic and its aftermath. Why? In addition to the stressors of raising children alone, the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic have escalated us from “stressed” to a much more serious condition. Read on for more information about the new illness you and your children may have developed, plus get free resources to help. Whatever is worsening your mental health – whether it be insomnia, trying to co-parent with a narcissist, PTSD from an abusive relationship, anxiety, or burnout from caring for kids on your own – there is help and hope.
Experts believe that prolonged stress and ongoing uncertainty may have lasting consequences for our mental health. Dr. Paul Nestadt, professor at John Hopkins school of medicine, explains:
“The brain loves certainty, familiarity, routines, plans, and habits. When those are missing, it can be very challenging. When they’re missing for months, and potentially long into the future, then it gets even more problematic.”
All of these “brain-pleasers” change during divorce, activating our “survival” brain for sustained periods. (The average person takes seven years to stabilize from divorce). This prolonged period of “fight or flight” state can drastically impact a child or adult’s physical and mental health, often leading to a diagnosis of chronic stress.
Symptoms of chronic stress can mimic those of depression, anxiety, burnout, and ADD, making diagnosis difficult. If you have been diagnosed with any of these illnesses, talk to you doctor about whether you might be experiencing chronic stress.
If you do not have financial or logistical access to a doctor or therapist, here are a few places you can begin:
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Learn About Children’s Mental Health | CDC
- National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI HelpLine | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Sesame Street: https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/
- SupportPay.com https://supportpay.com/product-recommendations