Can a Terrible Divorce Cause PTSD?

If you're going through a divorce, you know how challenging it can be. A divorce causes grief, upheaves your entire life, and can impact your family economically and psychologically. While it may sound hyperbolic to say that you have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from your divorce, post-divorce trauma is very real. Divorce is one of the most stressful events you can experience in life, second only to the death of a spouse.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a trauma and stress-related disorder resulting from “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.” Exposure to trauma can also include witnessing a close family member go through serious trauma. Symptoms often include

  • Having recurrent, unwanted memories of the traumatic event,
  • Having flashbacks or reliving the event as if it were happening again,
  • Having nightmares or upsetting dreams of the traumatic event, 
  • Physical reactions or severe emotional distress caused by things that remind you of the event,
  • Avoiding people, places, and things that remind you of the event,
  • Trying to avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic event,
  • Negative changes in thinking about the world or yourself,
  • Negative changes in mood, including detachment and a lack of interest in your usual pleasures,
  • Trouble sleeping,
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame,
  • Always feeling on guard, and
  • Becoming easily startled or frightened.

Post-divorce Trauma

While a formal PTSD diagnosis doesn't normally result from a divorce, the emotional fallout from a divorce can cause similar symptoms. Going through an acrimonious, drawn-out divorce process can exacerbate your emotional trauma and result in physical symptoms of illness. Some risk factors, like intimate partner abuse, exposure to a serious threat of injury, or a history of trauma, can make the process more difficult and more likely to lead to trauma.

One of the best things you can do is hire an experienced family law attorney to help take the emotion out of the process of divorce. If you're in the middle of a divorce or thinking about beginning the process, the attorneys at Caulder & Valentine can help. If you live near the Shelby or Gastonia areas of North Carolina, give us a call at 704-470-2440 or contact us online. We can discuss your options and help you plan for the future.