During a divorce, there may be days or weeks in which you’re downright miserable. All of your feelings of anger, resentment, sadness, and loss make for a difficult period of time. However, there is a distinct difference between temporary melancholy and clinical depression, which is also known as major depression disorder and requires medical treatment. When you’re not suffering from depression, you will eventually and naturally resolve your negative feelings. However, with depression, your brain chemistry works against you. You may feel a variety of negative emotions no matter how hard you try to overcome them on your own.

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If you notice signs of depression during your divorce, you should seek help from a physician. Your divorce attorney is also a key part in getting you through this challenging time. Contentious proceedings can make things more difficult for you. Whenever possible, your lawyer can advise you on maintaining a respectful relationship with your spouse and in some situations, represent you in divorce mediation.

“Divorce under any scenario is super stressful and if there are any mental health issues a divorce is usually going to exacerbate those issues just because of the anxiety surrounding it,” says Kristen A. Algert, an experienced family law mediation attorney with GoransonBain Ausley. “Mediation I think is helpful because it’s more solution-oriented, as opposed to trial.”

Using an alternative dispute resolution process like mediation can help you move through your divorce faster and with less financial stress.

Signs of depression

Common signs of clinical depression include, but are not limited to:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to like
  • An “empty” feeling
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling like things are hopeless
  • Feeling an excessive amount of guilt
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Indecisiveness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • An inability to sleep or sleeping an excessive amount
  • A decrease in your typical sex drive
  • Headaches and other pain that don’t go away
  • Digestive problems that don’t improve with treatment
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide without any sort of plan
  • Specific plans to attempt suicide

Look for changes in yourself

There are many different symptoms of depression, and no two people exhibit this illness the exact same way. Men and women may experience depression differently, according to the American Psychological Association. Women are often seen as more emotional, have a great deal of guilt, and have a higher likelihood of experiencing an anxiety disorder at the same time. Men may be fatigued, hostile, angry and irritable.

When considering whether you’re suffering from depression, it can be helpful to look at the common symptoms and take into consideration your gender and age. However, be sure to gauge your current feelings and behaviors based on how they differ from your typical self.

How long has it been?

If you are concerned about depression, consider how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms. If the symptoms have only lasted a couple of days, give yourself a little more time to notice improvement, particularly when you are going through a difficult time like a divorce. However, if you have been consistently experiencing multiple symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, you should speak with a mental health care professional.

How your lawyer can help during your divorce

Your divorce attorney cannot take the full weight of these proceedings off your shoulders. However, having an experienced, skilled, and trustworthy attorney for this process is invaluable. Whether or not you are struggling with depression during a divorce, your lawyer can advise you on how to get through a divorce without unnecessary personal and financial strain.

If you are worried about having to go to court frequently and would like to avoid litigation, your lawyer may recommend mediation or directly negotiating with your spouse. Mediation works best if you and your spouse have a civil relationship. “It’s much more focused on the future and how do we get to the end of this,” Algert says. “I think that alone helps reduce the anxiety, which in turn can help with any existing mental health conditions including depression. And if you have skilled professionals you know they’re also going to be aware of the depression and trying to look for ways to reduce anxiety and keep everyone calm and solution focused.” Additionally, when there are court hearings you must attend, your lawyer will do a majority of the speaking, which can greatly reduce the stress involved with litigation.

When you are under financial strain because of the divorce, a lawyer can take steps to work within your budget. Some divorce lawyers offer flat-fee legal services. Or, you may benefit from younger attorney or paralegal with a lower billable hour working on certain aspects of your case.

When you are interested in filing for divorce, or your divorce has filed, do not underestimate the importance of hiring a lawyer. Speak with a few divorce attorneys in your area to find the right one for you.

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 911 immediately or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.