If You Think You're Going Crazy, You Are.


Can a divorce drive you nuts? Yes, it can. Literally.

It is a fundamental tenet of the social sciences that personality disorders––bi-polarism, ADHD, non-situational depression, borderline personality, and so forth––are hard-wired into the individual psyche.  You are born with them, you die with them. You don't get rid of them, you manage them.

There is one glaring, spectacular exception. If you have no organic personality disorder at birth, there is one circumstance that will induce this condition in you as an adult. It is not death of a loved one, not combat, nor is it physical disease.

It is divorce.

A few years ago, Dr. Michelle Nelson, regarded as one of the very top forensic psychologists in Virginia, presented the corroborating data to a hall full of family attorneys in Richmond. Take a perfectly normal person while married, she said, and test them for personality disorders; they will come up negative. Test that same individual again with the same tests while undergoing a divorce, however, and that person may well manifest a full-bloom personality disorder––perhaps more than one.

This is the only instance in psychology where a normal individual can develop a personality disorder from scratch, so to speak.

But wait, this gets even more jaw-dropping. Test that person a third time, only after the divorce is final and some of the dust has settled. That individual will show absolutely no signs of any personality disorder, as if the divorce detour never happened.

This is the only instance in psychology where an individual with a personality disorder can get rid of it.

Divorce is the only instance in psychology where an individual with a personality disorder can get rid of it.

So, if you are feeling disoriented, or you can't concentrate, or if you are surprised––perhaps even embarrassed––at how easily you rise to rage, or if you find yourself obsessing or rebelling at convention and authority, do not despair. You are indeed "going crazy."

The good news is: you will get over it.

I have had probably a few hundred clients over the years express such feelings to me. They are often stunned by their own unsettling emotions and speak of serious doubts of their own judgment. "This is not me," said one. "I can't believe I said (or did) that," said others.  

One might think these would be the sentiments of the spouse who did not want the divorce in the first place. I have found, however, that such is not the case. It makes no difference, in my experience, who "started it." The initiator very often feels the same "craziness" as the individual who vehemently opposes the divorce.

Keep in mind, I am not a psychologist. But in my profession, it behooves attorneys to pay attention to these signals. My clients often need more than legal advice. If I encourage you to seek therapeutic counseling, please do not be offended. I went through a divorce myself. And yes, I thought I was going crazy.

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