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Divorce And PTSD: Understanding Divorce’s Impact On The Psyche


In 1967, precocious scientists invented the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, essentially defining which life events cause the most stress. As might be expected, a death in the family rated the highest with divorce coming in at number two. The study indicated that divorce causes more stressful changes to an individual’s life than most other major life events. The only event that caused more significant stress was the death of a spouse or a child.

While it’s certainly possible that a traumatic divorce can cause PTSD, the majority of sufferers go into their divorces already suffering from some traumatic event that continues to harm them now. While some studies have indicated that people who do not suffer from PTSD show symptoms of PTSD in the months following a divorce, those that already suffer from PTSD and now have the added stress of a divorce tend to suffer the most.

Those who have gone through a recent divorce report suffering flashbacks, night terrors, and ruminating thoughts that often disturb their sleep. Lack of sleep can cause depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.

Who is more likely to suffer from PTSD post-divorce, men or women? 

Men are much more likely to fall apart following a divorce than women are. Men tend to personalize their families in a way that is attached to their very identity. When they go through a divorce, they blame themselves, feel sorry for themselves, and don’t have a social support network around them that can help take their mind off their problems. The last factor turns out to be the biggest one. Men tend to isolate themselves after a divorce and thus, their psychological symptoms tend to be far worse than women in the months after the divorce is finalized. So for men, these symptoms build over months and involve months of self-medicating, and ruminating feelings of inadequacy. It may not qualify as PTSD, but it is definitely a post-divorce shock that leads to seriously debilitating health consequences.

Women are more likely to have experienced trauma at a young age. On the other hand, they are more likely to have stronger social support, a close-knit group of friends, and better support for the mental health needs which they tend to be more willing to consider than men. They are also more likely to find suitors after the divorce.

What’s true is that PTSD can have a negative impact on your marriage and when it comes to men who suffer from PTSD, their marriages end in divorce 80% of the time. In a lot of these cases, the men lack the social support necessary to mitigate the damage caused by the stress. Women tend to be better about this, seeking help, and having strong friendships while men tend to rely on their marriage for social contact. This ends up backfiring and when their marriage ends, they have no one. Psychological harm results from the stoic isolation and feelings of failure.

Talk to a Pennsylvania Divorce Lawyer Today 

Lauren H. Kane represents the interests of those seeking divorce in Pennsylvania. Call a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer at our office today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your goals immediately.

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