We all know that going through a divorce is rarely easy. Typically, however, we think in terms of the emotional impact divorce has on the parties. Divorce often takes a toll on your physical health as well though. If you are contemplating divorce, or you are already in the middle of a divorce, Fort Worth divorce lawyer Jon Boyd discusses how divorce can impact your health.
When asked, most people who have been through a divorce would rank the experience as one of their most stressful life events. Even a relatively amicable divorce creates some degree of stress. An adversarial and contentious divorce can result in chronic stress. Chronic stress can pose serious problems to your overall well-being and to your physical health.
People frequently underestimate the physical impact chronic stress has on the body. When the body is stressed, it releases the hormone cortisol. Overexposure to cortisol can disrupt nearly every system in the body, contributing to serious health conditions such as anxiety, heart disease, depression, and digestive problems. In addition, ongoing stress boosts blood pressure and kicks the immune system’s normal inflammatory response into overdrive. Excess inflammation can cause anything from a common cold to an autoimmune disorders. Finally, living with chronic stress often results in a deterioration of your healthy habits. When under stress, people frequently stop exercising regularly, pay less attention to diet, and may turn to negative habits.
We tend to equate divorce with weight gain or weight loss. A recent study in Social Science & Medicine supports that belief by showing that ending a marriage can lead to a less healthy diet for men. Men, in particular, may turn to comfort foods during the divorce process. While perfectly understandable, comfort foods are not usually healthy which can lead to weight gain. Conversely, skipping meals because of the emotional impact a divorce may have can lead to weight loss. Whether you are eating comfort foods and gaining weight, or skipping meals and losing weight, a lack of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can put you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Both chronic stress and a poor diet can lead to sleep problems during a divorce. Add in the emotional turmoil a divorce can cause and you have a recipe for a restless night. Sleep problems, however, can become a vicious circle from which you cannot escape. Failing to get enough sleep often creates more stress, making it more difficult to get to sleep, or stay asleep, the following night. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology found that just 24 hours of sleep deprivation significantly ups the stress hormone levels in your body. Lack of sleep leads to stress. Stress leads to anxiety — and anxiety leads back to lack of sleep.
Depression is a common side effect of divorce. For some, the stress and anxiety caused by the divorce leads to depression. For others who have struggled with depression in the past, divorce can be a major trigger for that depression to resurface. For men in particular, the end of a marriage causes emotional turmoil that they are not accustomed to handling. That emotional turmoil may be exacerbated if you are suddenly faced with an unfavorable custody order that prevents you from seeing your children on a daily basis. It is crucial to understand that depression is a common mental health issue for which help is available.
Substance abuse (alcohol, prescription drugs, illicit drugs) is among the top three reasons for a marriage to fall apart. Ironically, divorce can also lead to substance abuse. A study found that divorce increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder sixfold for men. Traditionally, men have not been encouraged to talk through their feelings. Although this is changing, many men still turn to alcohol or other substances to numb the pain of a divorce.
If you are contemplating divorce, of you are already a party to a divorce, it is in your best interest to consult with a Fort Worth divorce lawyer at Boyd Family Law. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.