How to Move Forward after Divorce

A good support system and a healthy lifestyle can help you overcome depression after a divorce, but sometimes medication and therapy may be necessary. Read on to find out how you can make it through the dark days and move forward with your life.

Depression after Divorce

About 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and roughly 30 to 40 percent of people going through this process report an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression. A breakup in a relationship, especially a long-term one, can be as devastating as the death of a loved one.

At the start of married life, you and the person you plan to spend the rest of your days with are full of shared dreams, hopes and aspirations. When they are shattered by the end of the relationship, you are faced with difficult changes in your life, and it is normal to feel sad and even miserable.

We all feel this way at times, and in a circumstance like this it’s entirely normal. But sometimes these feelings can progress to something more serious—depression.

For a diagnosis of clinical depression to be made, five or more of the following symptoms have to be present at the same time for a two-week period:

  • lack of energy
  • depressed mood for most of the day, every day
  • loss or increase in appetite
  • weight loss or gain
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • loss of interest in normal activities
  • feeling low or irritable all the time
  • frequent crying
  • trouble concentrating
  • feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • inappropriate guilt
  • recurrent thoughts of death

Overcoming Depression after Divorce

Divorce can be tough, but there are things you can do to help yourself start to feel better. Transformations will not happen overnight, so it is important to be patient with yourself and above all realize that it is possible to move on with your life. Whether you have been diagnosed with depression or you are just feeling low, these tips can help:

A good support system is vital when going through a stressful event like a divorce. Talk to someone that you feel comfortable with and can pour out your true feelings to, such as a family member, a friend or a religious leader. Find someone who has overcome a divorce or join a support group that's full of people who know what you are going through. You can also consider seeing a counselor.

Eating Healthy and Staying Active
It is OK to allow yourself to not function as well as you used to for a period of time while healing from a divorce, but it is important that you work your way back to normalcy.

Depression can deplete energy levels and even weaken the immune system, so do your best to keep your body strong by eating nutritious meals throughout the day (don't skip) and to get in at least some activity.

Avoid using alcohol, drugs and junk food to relieve feelings of pain and loneliness. Instead, eat healthy foods to enhance immune function and energy levels. If your appetite is lacking, try drinking a delicious smoothie made with fresh fruits and low-fat yogurt.

If you've taken a break from your exercise routine, start getting active again by taking a simple walk. Gradually increase your activity level over time. According to experiments conducted by Robert Thayer, Ph.D., renowned mood expert, a 10-minute brisk walk can boost energy levels and enhance mood for up to two hours; taking one daily can improve overall energy levels and mood after a three-week period.

People with depression often suffer from lack of sleep or too much sleep. Both can affect physical and mental health. If you are sleeping too much (more than 8 hours a day), force yourself to get out of bed and take that 10-minute brisk walk. If you are having a hard time sleeping, find a natural way to safely promote a good night's sleep, such as soaking in a warm tub for 15 to 20 minutes, drinking a cup of chamomile tea, meditating, doing deep breathing exercises or listening to soft music.

When to See a Doctor

Divorce is not easy, and sometimes it may be hard to overcome depression without medical help. If your symptoms are severe, or your daily activities are disrupted for more than two weeks, consult your doctor. Depending on the severity of your depression, your health care provider may recommend counseling or a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Written by:
Diana Cooper

Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Stressful Life Events. Available at: Accessed: May 4, 2011.
Thayer, R. E. Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood With Food and Exercise. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Help Guide. Coping with a Breakup or Divorce. Available at: Accessed: May 4, 2011.
Medline Plus. Depression. Available at: Accessed: May 4, 2011.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 13 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015