How An Ugly Divorce Can Affect Your Mental Health

May 10, 2023
By Alternative Divorce Solutions

Ending any romantic relationship is difficult, and ending a marriage is even harder. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second most stressful event a person can experience, just after the death of a spouse. In a way, a divorce is much like a death. The person you know will be, in many ways, gone forever.

Divorce has a giant impact on someone’s mental health. When it becomes contentious with nasty courtroom battles, those effects can be even worse. In this article, we will explore some of the ways an ugly divorce can affect your mental health, and we will offer some alternatives to help make your life transition easier.

Depression and Anxiety

Anyone well-versed in mental health can tell you that depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand. People rarely suffer from one without the other. People can become emotionally worn out from their anxiety, leading to depression. Depression can cause someone to avoid finishing projects, leading to anxiety. People who suffer from these conditions can emotionally flagellate themselves. They tell themselves that they are weak, creating more depression and anxiety through self-judgment.

A contentious divorce creates many opportunities for these feelings. After a breakup, someone may feel anxious at the very thought or mention of their ex. This person could also have anxiety about conflict, so imagine how they would react in an ugly divorce trial. They must see their former spouse, which is already painful. Then when they do, it is in the context of fighting in court. It is a double dose of anxiety for this person, which then leads to more depression.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

For some, the pain of an antagonistic divorce becomes unbearable. They develop unhealthy habits, or they fall back on habits they had already overcome.

Eating Disorders

It’s a simple fact, consuming things makes you feel good. Food is our fuel, and we have evolved to enjoy flavors that make us want to eat, keeping us alive. Even healthy eating habits can be abused. A full stomach releases pleasing, sedating chemicals, and we can become addicted to that feeling. This chemical release is even more euphoric with unhealthy foods. They often have a narcotic chemical reaction in our brains. Sugar and junk food can take you on a high, easing the pain of your divorce.

Alternatively, people struggling with divorce can lose their appetite. There is even a cheeky term for it, “the divorce diet.” Under intense emotional strain, you must remember to keep up with your bodily maintenance. Make sure you continue to eat, even when you don’t feel like it. Exercise through the heartache; stay on top of your hygiene; keep your house clean; and so forth. You may even find that self-care becomes a welcome distraction and your new, more positive coping mechanism.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs can directly numb the pain of your divorce. In your quest for relief, don’t forget moderation. A glass of wine with dinner is fine. You can even go out and have the occasional rager. However, check in with yourself regularly. Are you drinking or using cannabis every day? How many times a day? Most importantly, are you dabbling in hard drugs?

Give yourself breaks. Force yourself to go stone sober for long stretches. Makes sure that your feelings and your actions are being dictated by you and your will, not by addiction. If you find yourself taking hard drugs, seek help right away.


Any unhealthy coping mechanism is an example of self-harm, but sometimes people hurt themselves directly. The pain of a divorce does not always manifest itself in vibrant, explosive ways. Sometimes, it causes people to shut down and go emotionally numb. In extreme cases, people may feel the need to cut, punch, or otherwise hurt themselves just to feel something. If you are feeling the urge to inflict damage on yourself, please call a crisis center immediately.

How Mediation and an Uncontested Divorce Can Help

Any divorce is hard, but there are ways to make it easier. One such option is an uncontested divorce. In legal terms, to “contest” something means you are challenging it. You can avoid challenging your divorce in court and agree to the terms together. You can decide your own property division, child custody, child visitation, and more. If you are still on good terms, you can make these decisions, put them in writing, submit the document to the court, and move on.

To help you along, you should consider mediation. This is a process where you hire an impartial third party to listen to both of your concerns and help you create solutions. At its best, mediation can become a collaborative process. It can give the two of you one last project to work on together, helping to honor the relationship and send it off on a positive note.

To be clear, we are not suggesting that taking these steps will make everything wonderful. You could easily suffer many of the issues outlined above, even when the divorce is smooth. This is especially true if you wanted the marriage to continue. If you are having trouble coping, please seek counseling. There is no shame in asking for help, and a mental health professional has the skills to help offer you strategies for recovery. You will get through this, and with help, you will eventually get better.

For help making an already difficult time easier, trust Alternative Divorce Solutions. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 949-368-2121 or reaching out online.


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