If you just got engaged or are just weeks away from your wedding day, you might be wondering “how could someone be depressed about something so happy?” Quite easily, in fact. The excitement that builds up during wedding planning is momentous in so many ways, however, in the matter of one night, it’s all over, which, in many ways can be sad.
This common, yet rarely-discussed phenomenon is known as post-wedding depression. “In essence, a bride or groom suffering from post-wedding depression experiences significant sadness, a loss of interest in normal activities and an overall depressed mood that may be felt across all areas of life, from the marital relationship to work and social settings,” explains Carla Marie Manly Ph.D., author of Joy from Fear and Aging Joyfully. “Some people with post-wedding depression may endure significant duress and severe symptoms whereas others may experience very little disruption.” Unlike clinical depression, however, post-wedding depression is strictly related to changes and experiences directly to the new marriage—not any other contributing factor that could cause someone to be depressed.
If you’re feeling symptoms of post-wedding depression—feeling sad and purposeless after your wedding—know that you’re in good company. In fact it’s perfectly normal to feel out of sorts after any large-scale event that you’ve planned and hoped for, like a graduation, or relocation, or starting a new job. “Weddings, in particular can be stressful and can sometimes feel like a full-time job, so it can take some time to get back into the swing of your daily tasks,” explains Kelli Rugless, PsyD, from Thrive Psychology Group. “It’s important to remember, however, that most people report a decrease in depressive symptoms after marriage, so if the feelings seem to hang on you might need to reach out to a professional to sort your feelings out.”
In the meantime, here are some strategies for coping with post-wedding depression.
Sit with your emotions.
Before you start jumping to conclusions about what to “do” about your post-wedding depression, spend some time thinking about your emotions. “Feelings are not factual, but they always give information,” says Dr. Rugless. “Emotions are dynamic by nature so the sadness you might be feeling now won’t last more than three to six months!”
Hold on to something meaningful.
When your wedding is over, it’s okay if it wasn’t what you expected. “Maybe things went wrong, maybe it wasn’t as fun as you thought it’d be, maybe guests acted out of line,” says Rachel LaFleur, Ph.D., Washington Anxiety Center of Capitol Hill. Try to remember the happy moments about your big day and try to focus on those instead of the negative.
Journal your feelings.
It might be helpful to take pen to paper to get in touch with your thoughts and feelings. “Journaling without editing thoughts or attending grammar provides the opportunity to unravel hidden thoughts and feelings,” says Dr. Manly. “The journaling process becomes a safe haven for unwieldy thoughts as well as emotions such as anger and sadness.”
Create a gratitude jar.
“When depression sets in, it’s very easy to focus on the negatives and challenges in life,” says Dr. Manly. To support a positive mood, she recommends creating a personal gratitude jar filled with uplifting affirmations, words of thanks, gratitude poetry, and positive highlights in your life. “When feeling blue, pulling a note from a gratitude jar can elevate one’s mood,” she adds.
Don’t keep things bottled up.
Even though you might feel strange discussing your post-wedding depression, it’s a good idea to do so—with your partner, family, friends, etc. about the changes and challenges. “To avoid unloading too much on one’s partner, it’s important to share post-wedding depression issues with trusted friends,” says Dr. Manly. “When friends listen compassionately and empathize—without trying to ‘fix’ the situation—post-wedding depression often eases.”
Focus on the future.
Your wedding is just the beginning of a lifelong adventure with your partner. Dr. Rugless suggests changing your perspective by focusing on the milestones to come—like your wedding photographs, wedding videos and thank you cards. “Focusing on the future is a great way to keep your mind attuned to all the things you have to look forward to rather than what has already passed,” she says. “Remember, your wedding is not your marriage!”
Date your spouse.
Yes, you’re married—but no one said you have to stop “dating.” In fact, you shouldn’t! Take the chance to actually spend the quality time together without the added stresses of wedding and honeymoon planning. “This is also important for getting in touch with the reason for the wedding in the first place: celebrating the love and connection you have with your partner,” adds Dr. Rugless.
Remind yourself that these feelings are normal.
When you’re in the throes of depression of any kind, it’s common to feel alone. But this often only exacerbates symptoms. “Remember that these feelings are very common among people who are newly married or anyone who has reached a major goal and is contemplating what’s next,” says Judy Ho, Ph.D., triple board-certified forensic neuropsychologist and author of Stop Self Sabotage. “It may be helpful to reach out to other newly-married couples to ask them candidly how they felt after and how they deal with it.”
Consider seeking professional help.
There’s zero shame in seeking the help of a therapist—ideally before depression worsens or becomes chronic. In fact, Dr. LaFleur recommends connecting with a mental health provider immediately if your mood is affecting your ability to manage your responsibilities or are feeling hopeless or worthless. These emotions require immediate attention.