7 Ways Having Divorced Parents Can Affect Mental Health

by Carina Wolff

Having divorced parents can undoubtedly change your views on love and commitment, but it can also largely shape your view on the world in areas other than relationships. There are a number of surprising ways having divorced parents can affect your mental health and anxiety levels, and unless you have been seeing a therapist for years, you might not even realize how your parents' separation has shaped a large part of your life.

"People divorce because their marriage isn't working, and for a child, this environment creates hyper-vigilance," says Marissa Geraci, LMHC over email. "This spills over in to adult life and relationships. It becomes how we make sense of the world, and oftentimes children of divorced parents can have a victim mentality, not believing good things can or should happen to them, or they believe their life is destined to suck."

Discovering how your mental health has been affected by your parents doesn't have to make you angry at them for how you feel or cope with the world, but it instead should give you the clarity to take the proper steps to alleviate any issues. Here are seven surprising ways having divorced parents can affect your mental health.


Problems With Emotional Expression

"Whether your parents divorced amicably or not, there was likely some degree of emotion involved," says psychotherapist Maya Benattar, MA, MT-BC, LCAT over email. "Things may have been over-shared or repressed. You may have absorbed these tendencies from your parents without even realizing it, and it can affect your own ability to identity, express, and share your own emotions in a healthy and productive way."


Misdiagnosis Of Mental Health Issues


The hyper-vigilance you developed as a child can present as anxiety, but it is sometimes diagnosed as things like ADD, ADHD, or OCD, says Geraci. "You may see a psychiatrist and start self-medicating and become dependent on amphetamines or benzodiazepines, which isn't going to help change the negative cognitions you developed when you were five," she says.


Pessimistic Views


It's not uncommon for children of divorced parents to assume the worst. "It's a form of self-protection and self-preservation, but it also prevents you from living freely, from living a life that feels fun, peaceful, calm, positive," says Geraci. " It prevents you from believing good things about yourself, like that fact that it is actually possible for someone to love you, just the way you are."


Experiencing A Happiness Block


You might find that all aspects of your life are tainted with jaded beliefs. "With a constant need for approval — and society not always providing it — you are left feeling not good enough," says Geraci. "You might not feel deserving or worthy of love or that something is wrong with you."


Enjoying Chaos


"What I see happen occasionally is that a child that comes from a divorced home finds themselves in a good relationship, and then that feels uncomfortable, because it's not their 'normal,'" says Geraci. "The comfortability and consistency of every day life doesn't make sense. So they go looking for what might be wrong or could go wrong, creating arguments with their significant other just to feel a familiar rise of emotion."


Stress From "Peacemaking"


You might that your family life causes anxiety and stress because of the role you play between members. "You may find yourself put in various uncomfortable roles — 'the peacemaker,' 'the good daughter,' or 'the listener' — which can be difficult and anxiety provoking," says Benattar. "No matter what age you are, getting pulled between your parents or having to put in extra effort to manage holidays or special events can be very stressful."


Issues With Boundaries


Relationships can struggle as a result of boundary issues. "Your boundaries are skewed," says Geraci. "You might have a tendency to subconsciously push people away (because, you know, they are going to leave anyway). Or you might have a tendency to be more clingy."