6. Develop a strong support team.
Vulnerability to depression and anxiety is lessened by strong social support. “Many people go into marriage thinking they’ll have a life partner. One of worst side effects of divorce is it destroys the whole dynamic of the family. The family is the nucleus you were hoping would be there for you through the years. Divorce destroys it forever. So, whether you’re the one leaving or the one being left, divorce is very painful. And, it’s extraordinarily painful if you’re in your fifties or sixties because of the fear of being alone,” said Lucinda Bassett, CEO of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. So, make a list of people you can count on and ask them to call you and get together with you regularly.7. Expand your social network.
“You need to be around people where you’re engaged in interesting activities. Join a book club or sign up for a trip. The point is to be with people who aren’t completely preoccupied with divorce so you can get away from it for a while. As hard as it is, being with people who are having a ‘normal’ life is really important,” said Ross. 8. The anxiety may be a symptom of a depression.
Many people going through a divorce experience depression. While you can be depressed without having anxiety, anxiety is a common symptom of depression. The U. S. Surgeon General reports that 42 percent of people with depression reported symptoms of worry, psychic anxiety, and somatic anxiety of at least moderate severity (Fawcett and Kravitz, 1983).
9. Get help.
“If the anxiety is consistent, chronic, and interfering with daily activities like sleeping and eating well; or if you find you’re not socializing, having difficulties at work and experiencing stress related illnesses such as asthma or irritable bowel, the anxiety is interfering with your life. Seek professional help. Chronic anxiety is not good for you,” said Ross. Part of that help may be medication. “Medications as an adjunct to therapy can sometimes be helpful if you’re having a really hard time because they can take the edge off it. But, don’t treat going through divorce as a disease. Medications are not a treatment for getting over divorce and you shouldn’t take medications as a way of making the feelings go away because you need to go through the period of mourning,” said Ross. If you’ve experienced anxiety and panic attacks before the divorce, it is possible that you might have an anxiety disorder. People with an anxiety disorder have a persistent, irrational, unrelenting, chronic kind of fear that is very much biological as well as psychological. Anxiety disorders often start in someone’s twenties. While major stressors can exacerbate them, they are not caused by stress. Therefore, if someone doesn’t have an anxiety disorder, divorce won’t cause one. However, if you have been a victim of domestic violence, it is possible that you may have post traumatic stress disorder, which is a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Seek help. 10. Be patient.
“Divorce is one of life’s major stressors and it takes years to heal from it,” said Bassett. Still, life will get better and in all likelihood, you will not “lose it.” The U. S. Surgeon General reports that although some stressors are so powerful that they would evoke significant emotional distress in most otherwise mentally healthy people, the majority of stressful life events do not invariably trigger mental disorders. Rather, they are more likely to spawn mental disorders in people who are vulnerable biologically, socially and/or psychologically (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Brown & Harris, 1989; Kendler et al., 1995). So, relax. Take some slow deep breaths. Take things one day at a time. Take care of yourself. Develop coping skills and surround yourself with people you can talk to. Eventually, life will settle down and so will those crazy feelings. AADDITIONAL RESOURCES
In crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK Anxiety Disorder Association of America
Information on a range of anxiety disorders. American Psychological Association
Includes a link for common questions about panic disorders as well as one for finding a psychologist in your area. Brainexplorer.org
In addition to information about anxiety, this Web site includes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) definition of 'Anxiety Disorders. Columbia University TeenScreen Program
Mental health information for teens. The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety
Lucinda Bassett’s Web site. Good information and a great self test to help you determine if you’re suffering from anxiety. National Institute of Mental Health
The largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health. National Mental Health Association
Mental health information and fact sheets by audience and issue. The Ross Center for Anxiety & Related Disorders
Jerilyn Ross’ Web site. Offers brief descriptions of the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Click here to watch ADAA President and Ross Center CEO Jerilyn Ross discuss panic disorder on The Today Show.
U. S. Surgeon General’s Report on Anxiety Disorders
Comprehensive explanation of how anxiety disorders affect us. Laurie S. Moison (Hall) has written for newspapers in Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Washington, D. C. Author of four books, including "An Affair of the Mind," she has lectured nationally on sexuality, forgiveness, ethics and spirituality. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.