Divorce anxiety and panic attacks are sadly common. If we were to trust pop culture, we’d believe that the primary emotions related to divorce are relief and contempt. In reality, of course, the range of feelings connected to any kind of break-up is vast. Even when it’s the best thing for everyone involved, divorce is a major cause of stress and anxiety. Roughly 4 in 10 divorced adults report severe anxiety symptoms throughout the process. One such symptom is panic attacks.

A change of this magnitude can be traumatizing. Therefore, panic attacks are remarkably inevitable under the circumstances. We’re suddenly in fight-or-flight mode, and without realizing it, we’re processing reality is enough to trigger a panic response.

What Are Panic Attacks?

The mere combination of words — panic and attack — is enough to make you sweat. But it still does not do justice to what it actually feels like. The sudden fear is extreme and intense. It commonly produces symptoms like:

  • Hyperventilating, shortness of breath, and throat tightness
  • Severe perspiration
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling chills or overheated
  • Numbness
  • Muscle tension and tingling
  • Dissociation

Does This Mean You Have a Panic Disorder?

It could. Panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder but you don’t have to have this diagnosis to experience panic attacks when getting a divorce. At the moment of the attack, this distinction is not exactly a top priority. However, when you connect with a therapist, it will be important to discern the root cause of your panic attacks.

man sitting on bed with hands folded on his lap as he stares down at floorHow to Cope with Panic Attacks

If panic attacks are already a part of your life, let’s start with the basics. Such an attack will rarely last as long as 20 minutes. Five minutes is more likely. However, in the midst of things, you may feel certain that it’s been going on for hours and may never end. So, the first bit of advice is to never forget that panic attacks always pass quickly.

  • Close your eyes: Doing so will lessen the external stimulation reaching you. Use this as an opportunity to focus on breathing.
  • Deep breathing: This will reduce the shallow breathing you’re probably experiencing. It signals to the brain that there is no risk.
  • Find a focus: When your breathing slows, open your eyes and find an object to focus all your attention on. If possible, analyze and silently list its qualities.
  • Grounding: From there, allow yourself to feel your feet on the ground or your clothes on your body. Ground yourself in the present moment and the present location.

Techniques like this can soothe the intensity of a panic attack. However, you’ll still need to address the underlying reasons.

How to Cope with Divorce Anxiety and Panic Attacks

  • Mourn and grieve: Feel what you need to feel — even if surprises you. Process your emotions as they arise. Suppressing them will only prolong anxiety.
  • Be patient: Do not let anyone except yourself set the recovery timetable.
  • Make changes: Break old life patterns and routines. You’re under no obligation to keep doing things the same way as when you were married.
  • Self-care: Daily exercise, regular sleep patterns, and healthy eating choices are your staples.
  • Do not self-isolate: Find fun people to be with. Find trustworthy people to talk with. Lean on your support system but, at the same time, start building a new, post-marriage social life.

You Are Not Alone. Help For Divorce Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Divorce anxiety and panic attacks are not unusual. You’ll need to calm the panic while adjusting to a major life change. Addressing them in the presence of a skilled mental health guide is the ideal scenario to move toward recovery. To get started on this dual track of healing, I invite you to reach out and talk about anxiety treatment.