Divorce certainly rips lives apart, leaving bitter partners, wasted money, and torn families in its wake. But what happens when the emotional effects of divorces are turned inward, manifesting in such illnesses like depression or eating disorders. From the glare of the Hollywood spotlight, we have recently seen one such startling example: Demi Moore who is going through a messy divorce has also been battling internal struggles. Angelina Jolie, although not officially married, has been living with Brad Pitt for the last six years and rumors abound that the couple are close to a breaking point.
Both actresses have dropped a substantial amount of weight since their relationships started foundering, now teetering at an unhealthy levels, and both surrounded by rumors of epileptic seizures and fainting spells. Although Angelina’s struggles started with rumors of her husband’s affair, and Demi’s started after her marriage started unraveling, both women’s approach to stress was to stop taking care of themselves. Underneath all the sensationalist media coverage, these women are suffering and looking for a way – any way – to help curb or mask the pain.
For those of us who are only celebrities to our closest friends, our reactions to divorce or split-ups may not be highlighted on the front cover of every magazine, but that does not mean our suffering is any less substantial. Women are prone to turn their pain and anger towards themselves, often resulting in conditions like anorexia and depression, which are poor roommates for the newly single. Men are by no means exempt from this suffering, although it has been more commonly seen among women. People with anorexia are more likely to have depression and it is often a chicken and egg question about which started first.
Regardless of order, this combination of internalizing disorders is extremely dangerous and is often triggered by relationship problems, especially divorce. An eating disorder-specific website, Something Fishy, cites that many eating disorders and depression start in the aftermath of a separation or divorce.
A cheating partner can cause the other to feel inadequate, worthless, ugly or self-conscious, creating a host of body-image problems, depressive symptoms, and self-hatred. Divorce itself can lead to feelings of loneliness and helplessness and coping mechanisms often involve either under or over-eating in order to numb the pain. Eating disorders might seem a counterintuitive way to cope with emotional pain, but people often use them as a way to validate their internal suffering by feeling actual physical pain either through self-starvation or purging.
But knowing that these problems can occur in the wake of a divorce or separation does not help us know how to stop the downward spiral once such behaviors start. No tabloids will provide you with that information, but it is the most vital that you will need to know:
1) Seek Support – Whether it is family or a close and trusted friend, have someone you can confide in about your feelings and how you are coping with them.
2) Get Professional Help – Eating disorders and depression are serious and deadly diseases, as much so as cancer. And, like cancer, they require professional or medical help. Find a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another trusted counselor and make – and keep – regular appointments.
3) Be Loving – To yourself. Blaming yourself for what happened will only lead to self-loathing and magnify your problems. Accept what has happened and work to treat yourself well so you can recover and move on with your life.
4) Find a Passion – Find a better outlet for your emotions than controlling your food intake or ruminating about what could have been. Start a new hobby or take up journaling to funnel your emotions into a healthier and more creative outlet.
Remember that divorce will take its toll on your life, but it doesn’t have to take your life by the means of depression or eating disorders. Take steps today to make sure you do not fall victim to more suffering.