Divorce Trauma and PTSD…What to know.

Divorce Trauma and PTSD…What to know.

Divorce Trauma and PTSD…What to know.

Is it possible to suffer PTSD as a result of a divorce? Maybe. There’s no question we have represented clients who have suffered emotionally as a result of their divorce case, and some have gone on to receive a PTSD diagnosis. The reality is that a divorce or custody case can be the most traumatic event of an individuals life. This isn’t a topic that often gets discussed, but lawyers practicing in the area of high-conflict divorce should be cognizant of the emotional impact a high-conflict divorce or custody case can have on the client. What is PTSD though, and what can be done to protect yourself when you find yourself in a high-conflict divorce case?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a mental health condition that can develop in some individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD can occur after a single traumatic event or a series of traumatic experiences.

The symptoms of PTSD can vary in intensity and duration and typically fall into four main categories:

  1. Intrusive Thoughts: People with PTSD may experience intrusive thoughts, memories, or nightmares related to the traumatic event. They might have flashbacks, where they feel as if they are reliving the event, and these experiences can be distressing and vivid.
  2. Avoidance: Individuals with PTSD often try to avoid reminders of the traumatic event. They may avoid certain places, activities, or situations that could trigger distressing memories or emotions associated with the trauma. This avoidance can sometimes interfere with daily life and lead to social withdrawal.
  3. Negative Mood and Cognition: People with PTSD may have persistent negative thoughts and feelings related to themselves, others, or the world around them. They may experience feelings of guilt, shame, or detachment from others. They might also have difficulty remembering aspects of the traumatic event or have a negative outlook on their future.
  4. Hyperarousal and Reactivity: Individuals with PTSD may experience increased arousal and reactivity. They may have difficulty sleeping, experience irritability, have difficulty concentrating, or be easily startled. They may also exhibit hypervigilance, constantly being on guard for potential threats.

It’s important to note that experiencing a traumatic event does not automatically mean a person will develop PTSD. The development of PTSD can be influenced by various factors, such as the severity and duration of the trauma, the person’s proximity to the event, their personal resilience, and available support systems. Within the context of a divorce, the emotional impact may depend on various factors.

Divorce can be a highly stressful and emotionally challenging life event that can potentially contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some individuals. While divorce itself is not listed as a specific cause of PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the traumatic nature of the divorce process and the events surrounding it can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of PTSD.

Factors that can contribute to the traumatic nature of a divorce and potentially increase the likelihood of developing PTSD symptoms include:

  1. High-Conflict Divorce: Divorces characterized by intense conflict, hostility, and ongoing disputes can create a highly stressful environment. Experiences such as frequent arguments, emotional abuse, or even domestic violence during the divorce process can contribute to the trauma.
  2. Betrayal and Loss: Divorce often involves feelings of betrayal, loss, and grief, especially when trust has been broken or when there are significant emotional attachments. These emotions can be overwhelming and may contribute to the distress associated with the divorce.
  3. Financial and Practical Stress: The financial and practical implications of a divorce, such as dividing assets, determining child custody and support arrangements, and adjusting to new living arrangements, can add significant stress and uncertainty to the process.
  4. Social and Emotional Impact: Divorce can lead to a significant disruption in one’s social network and support system. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, and the loss of shared relationships can contribute to emotional distress and potentially impact mental health.

While not everyone who goes through a divorce will develop PTSD, some individuals may experience symptoms resembling those of PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts, emotional distress, sleep disturbances, avoidance behaviors, and difficulties in personal relationships. It’s important to seek support from mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, who can provide guidance, coping strategies, and appropriate treatment if needed.

The Smith Firm recommends a number of steps to help navigate the emotional toll of divorce, however, acute cases may require medical intervention early in the case. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, or struggling with the emotional impact of divorce, it is recommended to seek professional help. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or psychologists, can provide a diagnosis, offer appropriate treatment options, and support individuals in managing their symptoms and improving their quality of life.