If you’re having a hard time in the aftermath of your divorce, you’re certainly not alone. While divorce will affect everyone differently, it’s commonly ranked as one of the most stressful life events a person can experience. Usually, death is the only event ranked as more painful.
Though no lives are lost in a divorce, it’s not unusual for people to go through a mourning process when their marriage comes to an end. But while it’s perfectly normal to experience feelings of sadness or grief during this difficult period, it’s crucial also to recognize when those feeling cross over to depression and when to consider getting help.
Distinguishing depression from grief
Because grief and depression have several similarities, it isn’t always easy to tell them apart – especially amid a painful loss. Both tend to cause intense sadness and withdrawal from the activities you once loved. However, there are a few critical distinctions. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the following are the key ways depression differs from sadness:
- In grief or sadness, painful feelings usually come in waves. A person will experience some positive memories, even in their grief. Depression, on the other hand, causes symptoms of intense sadness or loss of interest in activities for at least two weeks before diagnosis.
- If you are experiencing ongoing feelings of worthlessness, guilt or self-loathing after your divorce, these are common symptoms associated with depression. While you certainly won’t feel like your best self when experiencing sadness, a person will usually maintain their self-esteem if they aren’t depressed.
About one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lives, and sometimes a stressful life event like a divorce can trigger an overlap of both grief and depression. But ultimately, depression is usually longer lasting and relentless.
When to seek help
Though it isn’t always easy to admit, it’s essential to be honest with yourself if you having a hard time coping with your divorce. Depression can affect anyone, and there’s no shame in seeking help during trying times. If you have been experiencing the symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, you should record what you are feeling and speak with your doctor to see what they recommend.
Self-care is also essential to surviving your divorce. There are many things you can do to help counteract the effects of depression, including:
- Exercising regularly to improve your mood
- Eating a healthy diet
- Avoiding alcohol and other depressants
- Getting plenty of quality sleep regularly
The good news about both divorce and depression is that the vast majority of people will overcome them. By recognizing what depression looks like and considering getting help, you can take your first steps towards feeling better and starting your next chapter.