We are all keenly aware of the emotional effects that separation and divorce can have on our families and ourselves. People at the beginning of a separation or divorce often overlook the physical effects of this process. While the issues listed in this article mostly mirror the issues experienced by women, the focus of this article will be on men.
Most of us know of a recently separated party that suddenly loses 10, 20, or more pounds very rapidly. This weight loss can result from loss of appetite, depression, substance abuse, and potentially loss of sufficient income to maintain a normal diet.
Other examples of physical issues that men experience during this process include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and weakened immune systems. The increase in chronic stress of the divorce process can cause men with pre-existing heart conditions to suffer increased arrhythmias, heart attacks, or even sudden death. Triggers of this chronic stress can result from recently discovered affairs, losing time or access to children, division of assets, or just losing the marriage itself. Added stressors of settlement negotiations, ongoing issues with child custody, or upcoming court appearances can exacerbate underlying medical conditions. The Journal of Men’s Health published a study where researchers found the mortality rate for divorced men is almost 250 percent greater than in married men. The same study noted that divorced men suffer higher incidences of cancer.
Many men who suffer from depression and anxiety resulting from the recent loss of their relationship look to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope. Divorced men have a suicide rate that is about 40% higher than married men. Increased depression and anxiety can often be tied to losing custody of the children or the increased stress about finances due to child support or alimony payments. Many men often refuse to seek any mental health help, especially early in the process of a divorce. With men trying to maintain the appearance that they are tougher than women, less emotional, or less vulnerable, warning signs of real danger can be missed.
Divorce can be a nasty road to travel on your own. Men need to remember that they have to care for themselves and at the same time realize that there may be others relying on their support. Seeking help for your physical and mental health is important during this process. Make conscious decisions to eat right, exercise (after talking to your physician), and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. While it is important to have an experienced family law attorney, coming out on the other side healthy – both physically and mentally – is important also. It not only matters to your long-term health but to your children and family.