What is the treatment for someone going through a divorce or breakup?

Ending relationships can be a major stressor in anyone’s life. Divorce or breakups can lead to increased depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and increased stress. Sleep problems are also common and can lead to problems with concentration, memory, irritability, and physical illness. Substance use behaviors, gambling, impulsive sexual activity can all increase and lead to further stress and consequences. When a relationship ends, there can be more to think about than just the loss of the relationship, but also how to tell others, including children, moving,and settling finances.

In many circumstances, there may be contentious feelings around the relationship ending or towards the partner. This is increasingly complicated when former partners have to interact due to involvement with co-parenting children or dealing with a business. In order to help facilitate a transition where contention is decreased, there are interventions to help one or both parties move to engaging constructively with their ex-partner.

What is the treatment for someone going through a divorce or breakup?

Working to radically accept the situation

First, acknowledging that the relationship is ending or has ended can be a tremendously difficult process. You may be dealing with “shoulds” of “if only” statements that only are prolonging suffering. The first step to changing any situation is accepting the situation for what it is, not what we wish it could be. Acceptance is not the same as condoning it or judging it to be good, it is just seeing the situation for what it is.

Managing emotions

Managing emotions in a stressful time can be hard. People can experience sadness, anger, relief, guilt, shame, and anxiety around a relationship ending. Sometimes people use old coping strategies such as using substances or self-harm behavior that lead to consequences and more emotions. CBT can address changing your thoughts around emotions, as well as changing behavior to more effective and helpful coping strategies that don’t lead to more heartache.

Dealing with distress effectively

Going through a breakup or divorce can be a rollercoaster. There can be periods of tremendous stress and oftentimes people have difficulty managing this distress in an effective way. Several modalities of treatment can help one manage distress in an effective way. For example, ACT can help with mindfulness and gaining perspective on distress. CBT can help with evaluating distressful thoughts and incorporating a new perspective on a difficult situation, and DBT can help with crisis survival strategies to get through a difficult situation without making it worse.

Communicating with others

When going through a divorce or breakup, people need help from others. This can be especially tough if you are not used to asking for help or if you have a small support system. CBT and DBT can help with being able to ask effectively for what you need while maintaining your relationships with others.