When you’re going through a divorce, every little detail about your spouse is looked at through a different lens. Every quirk that you may have found endearing when you first got together is now seen as annoying or insufferable. That lens is amplified by the emotions of an intense and often volatile situation.
It can often be worse if one of the spouse has seen these flaws on a daily basis even before a divorce was decided upon. These individuals believe that there is something wrong with them on a medical level preventing them from a normal life.
Illness anxiety disorder, more commonly referred to as hypochondria or hypochondriasis, is a condition where you find yourself worrying excessively that you are or may become seriously ill, according to the Mayo Clinic. Physical symptoms may not exist. Normal body sensations may be perceived as symptoms of a severe illness, despite not actually having any sort of medical condition.
There are two types of illness anxiety disorder. The first one is what we, as a society, typically think when we discuss hypochondria, but the second one is called a somatic symptom disorder. This disorder amplifies the perception of minor symptoms of a common illness. They are not faking their symptoms, but they have intense feelings, thoughts, and behaviors related to the symptoms that interfere with their daily life, according to the United States National Library of Medicine.
When experiencing marital difficulties, it can be easy to overanalyze the emotions you go through, and then once the divorce process begins, it is vital to consult with your attorney, regarding a strategy to best handle the case.
Divorce and hypochondria
In Joseph Cordell’s book, “The 10 Stupidest Mistakes Men Make When Facing Divorce: And How to Avoid Them,” Mr. Cordell speaks about a case where a man was willing to give his wife a divorce that she wished to pursue, and the man spoke about her many conditions, including her hypochondria.
During times of extreme stress, she would go to the doctor, and if she did not get the diagnosis or medication that she felt that she needed, she would go to other doctors and other specialists. In order to minimize the amount that he would have to spend in order to support her hypochondria, Mr. Cordell advised him to file right away.
By filing right away, the man was able to minimize the amount he would have to pay for co-payments, treatments, and medicine. The financial aspect of the situation was the motivation needed to make this decision that was in his best interests.
Given the way that the mind and emotions of a hypochondriac guide the decision-making, the emotional interests can be compromised. Many, like the woman described above, can find the stresses of a divorce to be a trigger for a somatic complaint that only a doctor can cure, according to Psychology Today.
The need to feel better is a psychosomatic impulse triggered by small moments of discomfort. These regular bodily functions and sensations create an emotional reaction that can cause a person to actually get sick. They can actually feel themselves get physically worse, on top of the sensations they experience from the hypochondria. The emotional and physical aspects of one’s health become linked and tied to one’s intense fears of illness.
During a divorce, this can find itself heightened, leaving those affected in a state of flux. Children rely on their parents to be the rational decision-makers, but during a divorce, a hypochondriac parent may find themselves making decisions based on the symptoms that they feel that they exhibit, rather than what is in the best interest of the children involved.
This can impact custody decisions. Judges need to consider who will provide the most stable and nurturing environment, and furthermore, judges also need to think about which parent has been the one picking them up from school, making their lunches, helping them with their homework, and other every day tasks. A hypochondriac parent may not be able to perform those tasks that children rely on, or perform them to the same degree. This can affect a custody decision.
For the hypochondriac
For those that are the hypochondriac facing the divorce experience, it can be an uphill battle. In the division of assets, it can vital to monitor one’s behavior, and as much as a hypochondriac may want to not react to the disorder that they are suffering from, it may not necessarily be up to them.
Seeking help for the disorder may be the most effective way in treating it, and while the treatment and support may not be soon enough to avoid affecting the divorce process, it is important to understand that revisiting custody at a later date is possible, if the courts see the changes and progress that was made.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.