An Overview of Breakup Depression

Dealing with a Breakup or Divorce —

An Overview of Breakup Depression

A breakup or divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in life. Whatever the reason for the split—and whether you wanted it or not—the breakup of a relationship can turn your whole world upside down and trigger all sorts of painful and unsettling emotions.

Even when a relationship is no longer good, a divorce or breakup can be extremely painful because it represents the loss, not just of the partnership, but also of the dreams and commitments you shared. Romantic relationships begin on a high note of excitement and hopes for the future. When a relationship fails, we experience profound disappointment, stress, and grief.

A breakup or divorce launches you into uncharted territory. Everything is disrupted: your routine and responsibilities, your home, your relationships with extended family and friends, and even your identity.

A breakup also brings uncertainty about the future.

What will life be without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone? These unknowns can often seem worse than being in an unhappy relationship.

This pain, disruption, and uncertainty means that recovering from a breakup or divorce can be difficult and take time. However, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that you can and will get through this difficult experience and even move on with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.

Recognize that it’s OK to have different feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You may also feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions these will lessen over time. Even if the relationship was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.

Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is Superman or Supergirl; take time to heal, regroup, and re-energize.

Don’t go through this alone. Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period.

Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations.

Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, other relationships, and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it.

Source: Mental Health America

Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship

Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and the breakup or divorce of a love relationship involves multiple losses:

  • Loss of companionship and shared experiences (which may or may not have been consistently pleasurable).
  • Loss of support, be it financial, intellectual, social, or emotional.
  • Loss of hopes, plans, and dreams (which can be even more painful than practical losses).

Allowing yourself to feel the pain of these losses may be scary. You may fear that your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that you’ll be stuck in a dark place forever. Just remember that grieving is essential to the healing process. The pain of grief is precisely what helps you let go of the old relationship and move on. And no matter how strong your grief, it won’t last forever.

Tips for grieving after a breakup or divorce

Don’t fight your feelings. It’s normal to have lots of ups and downs, and feel many conflicting emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion. It’s important to identify and acknowledge these feelings. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only prolong the grieving process.

Talk about how you’re feeling. Even if it is difficult for you to talk about your feelings with other people, it is very important to find a way to do so when you are grieving. Knowing that others are aware of your feelings will make you feel less alone with your pain and will help you heal. Writing in a journal can also be a helpful outlet for your feelings.

Remember that moving on is the end goal. Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyze the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings blame, anger, and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward.

Remind yourself that you still have a future. When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams for a life together. After a breakup, it’s hard to let these aspirations go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones.

Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup and depression. Grief can be paralyzing after a breakup, but after a while, the sadness begins to lift. Day by day, and little by little, you start moving on. However, if you don’t feel any forward momentum, you may be suffering from depression.

Helping your kids during a breakup or divorce

When mom and dad split, a child can feel confused, angry, and uncertain as well as profoundly sad. As a parent, you can help your kids cope with the breakup by providing stability and attending to your child’s needs with a reassuring, positive attitude.

Reach out to others for support

Support from others is critical to healing after a breakup or divorce. You might feel being alone, but isolating yourself will only make this time more difficult. Don’t try to get through this on your own.

Connect face-to-face with trusted friends and family members. People who have been through painful breakups or divorces can be especially helpful. They know what it is and they can assure you that there is hope for healing and new relationships. Frequent face-to-face contact is also a great way to relieve the stress of a breakup and regain balance in your life.

Spend time with people who support, value, and energize you. As you consider who to reach out to, choose wisely. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who truly listen to you. It’s important that you feel free to be honest about what you’re going through, without worrying about being judged, criticized, or told what to do.

Get outside help if you need it. If reaching out to others doesn’t come naturally, consider seeing a counselor or joining a support group (see the Resources section below). The most important thing is that you have at least one place where you feel comfortable opening up.

Cultivate new friendships. If you feel you have lost your social network along with the divorce or breakup, make an effort to meet new people. Join a networking group or special interest club, take a class, get involved in community activities, or volunteer at a school, place of worship, or other community organization.

Taking care of yourself after a breakup

A divorce is a highly stressful, life-changing event. When you’re going through the emotional wringer and dealing with major life changes, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The strain and upset of a major breakup can leave you psychologically and physically vulnerable.

Treat yourself you’re getting over the flu. Get plenty of rest, minimize other sources of stress in your life, and reduce your workload if possible.

Learning to take care of yourself can be one of the most valuable lessons you learn following a breakup.

As you feel the emotions of your loss and begin learning from your experience, you can resolve to take better care of yourself and make positive choices going forward.

Self-care tips

Make time each day to nurture yourself. Help yourself heal by scheduling daily time for activities you find calming and soothing. Spend time with good friends, go for a walk in nature, listen to music, enjoy a hot bath, get a massage, read a favorite book, take a yoga class, or savor a warm cup of tea.

Pay attention to what you need in any given moment and speak up to express your needs. Honor what you believe to be right and best for you even though it may be different from what your ex or others want. Say “no” without guilt or angst as a way of honoring what is right for you.

Stick to a routine. A divorce or relationship breakup can disrupt almost every area of your life, amplifying feelings of stress, uncertainty, and chaos. Getting back to a regular routine can provide a comforting sense of structure and normalcy.

Take a time out. Try not to make any major decisions in the first few months after a separation or divorce, such as starting a new job or moving to a new city. If you can, wait until you’re feeling less emotional so that you can make decisions with a clearer head.

Avoid using alcohol, drugs, or food to cope. When you’re in the middle of a breakup, you may be tempted to do anything to relieve your feelings of pain and loneliness.

But using alcohol, drugs, or food as an escape is unhealthy and destructive in the long run. It’s essential to find healthier ways of coping with painful feelings.

HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can help.

Explore new interests. A divorce or breakup is a beginning as well as an end. Take the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. Pursuing fun, new activities gives you a chance to enjoy life in the here-and-now, rather than dwelling on the past.

Making healthy choices: Eat well, sleep well, and exercise

When you’re going through the stress of a divorce or breakup, healthy habits easily fall by the wayside. You might find yourself not eating at all or overeating your favorite junk foods.

Exercise might be harder to fit in because of the added pressures at home and sleep might be elusive.

But all of the work you are doing to move forward in a positive way will be pointless if you don’t make long-term healthy lifestyle choices.

See: Healthy Eating, How to Sleep Better, and How to Start Exercising and Stick to It.

Learning important lessons from a breakup or divorce

It can be difficult to see it when you’re going through a painful breakup, but in times of emotional crisis, there are opportunities to grow and learn.

You may be feeling nothing but emptiness and sadness in your life right now, but that doesn’t mean that things will never change. Try to consider this period in your life a time-out, a time for sowing the seeds for new growth.

You can emerge from this experience knowing yourself better and feeling stronger and wiser.

In order to fully accept a breakup and move on, you need to understand what happened and acknowledge the part you played. The more you understand how the choices you made affected the relationship, the better you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes—and avoid repeating them in the future.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. Step back and look at the big picture. How did you contribute to the problems of the relationship?
  2. Do you tend to repeat the same mistakes or choose the wrong person in relationship after relationship?
  3. Think about how you react to stress and deal with conflict and insecurities.

    Could you act in a more constructive way?

  4. Consider whether or not you accept other people the way they are, not the way they could or “should” be.
  5. Examine your negative feelings as a starting point for change.

    Are you in control of your feelings, or are they in control of you?

You’ll need to be honest with yourself during this part of the healing process. Try not to dwell on who is to blame or beat yourself up over your mistakes.

As you look back on the relationship, you have an opportunity to learn more about yourself, how you relate to others, and the problems you need to work on. If you are able to objectively examine your own choices and behavior, including the reasons why you chose your former partner, you’ll be able to see where you went wrong and make better choices next time.

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Gina Kemp, M.A., and Melinda Smith, M.A.

Last updated: October 2021


Depression After a Painful Breakup and How to Deal

An Overview of Breakup Depression

Depression after a breakup can be a profoundly painful experience. Read below for tips from a psychologist on how to navigate this struggle.

When does normal sadness after a breakup turn into clinical depression? It would be easy if there were a set number of weeks after which it was “abnormal” to feel depressed after a breakup. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

How long you feel depressed after a breakup often depends on the length of the relationship. It depends on other factors the circumstances under which things ended and the meaning you’ve ascribed to a relationship.

For example, a two-month relationship that you think of as a “fun fling” will be easier to deal with after it ends than a two-month-long relationship that you pinned all your hopes on.

This illustrates an important principle in human psychology: How you think about an event influences how you feel about it.

You can use this principle to your advantage – after a breakup, we can practice thinking in ways that will helpful.

You might have a lot of thoughts “I’ll never meet anyone else!” How can you deal with these thoughts? It’s not helpful to tell yourself something encouraging that you just don’t believe, , “I’ll meet someone even better next weekend!”

Instead, try telling yourself something that you know to be true and helpful, even if it doesn’t match the way you feel right now. For example, try something this: “Lots of people enjoy my company, so I’ll probably date someone else at some point.”

Post-Breakup Depression

Sometimes depression lingers for a long time after a breakup. After a time, your family and/or friends start to worry about you and express concern. You can’t seem to get over it.

In these cases, it is good to consult with a therapist. Depression is a problem to be taken seriously.

If you feel depressed most of the time and it meaningfully interferes with your life, seek professional help.

Rejection: The Most Dreaded Post-Breakup Emotion

Perhaps the hardest part of romantic relationships happens when you encounter one of the most unpleasant emotions there is: rejection. It’s universal: no one s being rejected. Having said that, some people react better to rejection than others.

Feeling rejected during a breakup can trigger feelings of despair or worthlessness. Sometimes these feelings lead to anger or depression. What can you do if you’re feeling rejected and suffering from some of these emotional consequences?

If these emotions are leading you to feel suicidal or to engage in dangerous behaviors ( excessive drinking), it’s time to seek professional help.

If you’re not doing anything dangerous, but are merely miserable, remember: these feelings are understandable and temporary (more on this below). Often, letting these emotions run their course is the healthiest thing you can do.

But if they start to feel persistent, or interfere with your ability to do your job, go to class, or live your life, it’s smart to consult with a therapist.

Rejection Affects Your Thinking

Rejection stings. Sometimes it shakes you to your core. When it happens in the context of your love life, it can lead you to think that no one will ever want to be with you or that there is something profoundly wrong or lacking in you.

It can make you think it’s useless to even try to seek out the relationship you want. There are few experiences in life more dispiriting. I wish there was a magic cure that would make this feeling go away, but there isn’t one.

However, there are a few strategies that are often helpful.

Remember: Everything is Temporary – Including Emotions.

Emotions are an important part of what is to be human – they help shape our interior lives. They are also temporary! Feelings of rejection are no exception. So remember that given enough time, even feelings of rejection will pass. Change is inevitable.

Mindfulness practice is the best way I know to get better at not getting sucked into emotions despair, anger, or sadness that sometimes come up around the end of a romantic relationship.

Mindfulness practice, done properly, is no small undertaking. It requires real commitment to working with your mind in a certain way, on a daily basis.

However, if you’re up for the challenge, mindfulness practice can change your life.

Marijuana, alcohol, Klonopin, Xanax, and similar drugs can feel very tempting when we are experiencing feelings of rejection, despair, or loneliness. Indeed, they are ly to provide some short-term relief.

However, the medium- and long-term consequences of using these substances can be counterproductive and will deprive us of the opportunity to experience the natural dissolution of these difficult feelings.

Be Wary of Anger — It Can Be a Trap

Often, there are a lot of reasons to be angry after a breakup.

You may believe the other person mistreated you — and maybe you’re right! Maybe he or she didn’t give you a fair shot or didn’t bother to get to know the real you.

It’s certainly understandable to feel angry about these things. However, sometimes anger is something we go to in order to escape sadness or to avoid doubts we have about our appeal as a romantic partner.

In a temporary way, anger is effective in distracting you from underlying emotions and doubts. The problem is, if anger leads you to start an argument with the other person, then you’ll ly end up with more to be angry about (Can you believe they said THIS to defend themselves? Unbelievable!), so anger ends up becoming self-perpetuating.

A healthier strategy is often to face those doubts and emotions directly, even if they hurt. There is value in letting yourself feel hurt or sad and experiencing how temporary that can be. If you can learn to address your doubts and tolerate these emotions, anger will often lose its appeal.

Summing up

Breakups can lead to many different feelings. When a breakup leads to symptoms of depression, remember the strategies described here and maybe you can make things a little easier on yourself.

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6 Tips For Coping With Depression After A Breakup, From Experts

An Overview of Breakup Depression

There’s no way around it: Breakups SUCK. Even if the end of your relationship was a mutual decision, there's almost a guaranteed grieving period of some degree. And sometimes, what you thought might be just a few weeks or months of feeling a little down can turn into a b real depression after a breakup.

And by real depression, I mean how it sounds: the actual, clinical type.

“One of the symptoms we associate with depression is a feeling of helplessness, and especially if the other person broke up with you, that can make you feel extremely vulnerable and lost,” says WH advisor «Dr. Chloe» Carmichael, PhD, a relationship therapist in New York City and author of Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating.

Trust that the feeling won’t last forever, but getting over someone isn’t as simple as just letting time heal your wounds.

“Mourning is different for everyone, but I would expect it to be really hard for at least 90 days following a breakup,” says Dr. Chloe.

Then “during that period and after, depression can become cyclical: Maybe you start dating again and you have a few weeks of fun, but then you miss the stability of being with that one person, or their birthday rolls around and you’re reminded of them and you feel sad again. That can go on for years.” Oof.

That means it's best to nip depression in the bud as early and as quickly as you can—which isn't, might I add, the same as not letting yourself feel the full weight of your emotions. You just need to not let the sad, dark ones get the best of you day after day.

A breakup can lead to your healthiest self—hear a real woman's revenge-body story:

Easier said than done, right? Well, not anymore. These breakup-depression coping tips will fast-forward the grieving process and help you walk away from your split feeling a better, hotter, stronger version of yourself:

1. Stay committed to the real reasons the relationship ended

Every time your former boyfriend or girlfriend pops back into your head, you have an opportunity to control the mental conversation that comes next.

Instead of taking your thoughts of longing or missing them as a sign that the breakup wasn't the right decision, trust that it's totally normal and okay to still have feelings for someone who isn't the right person for you. Focus on that latter bit as much as possible—that they're still not the right person for you.

“Even former smokers miss having a cigarette every once in a while, but it doesn’t mean they should start back up again,” Dr. Chloe notes.

2. Delete your ex on all social media

Once someone is your physical life, it’s time to get them your digital life, too.

“When you continue to look at someone on social media after a breakup, you’re investing in someone who’s not invested in you,” says Dr. Chloe. “It reminds you of their presence. Instead of ripping off the bandage, you're fixating on them visually, which is slowly peeling it off and then repasting it and peeling it again and again.” (I mean, what a perfect analogy…)

eating junk food when you’re hungry, checking up on your ex might give you a little relief in the moment, but it only digs you deeper into feeling dependent on them.

Delete/unfollow/block and never look back. You got this, girl.

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When you end a relationship, there’s a sudden drop-off in physical touch. And skin-to-skin contact decreases the stress hormone cortisol and boosts the feel-good hormone dopamine, says Dr. Chloe. So without it, you lose a lot of those smiley feelings.

Touch makes you feel wanted, valued, loved, and safe—not to mention, part of (or sometimes, all of) what you might be missing about your ex is simply physical intimacy.

“It can feel psychological withdrawal,” Dr. Chloe says. “I always recommend clients get a massage from someone who is the same sex as your ex. You might be craving some compassionate male touch, and a massage can check that primal box. It’s okay to miss being touched and held, but it doesn’t have to be with that one person.”

4. Talk to a therapist

Post-breakup, there’s usually a lot to unpack emotionally, and a therapist can help you process what you’re feeling so you can properly move forward.

«You might be wondering what you did to push them away, or why you weren’t good enough.»

“When someone breaks up with you, it can kick off a series of critical negative thoughts about yourself,” says Dr. Chloe. “You might be wondering what you did to turn them off or push them away, or why you weren’t good enough for them. But really, they just weren’t interested in the same things as you long-term, and it doesn’t have anything to do with your intrinsic self.”

That’s not to say you couldn’t have done anything differently, though, and acknowledging that is actually a good thing! Recognizing that you tend to go for people who want something casual while you want something serious, or that you present yourself as someone who’s okay with treatment that you’re really not, can help you change those patterns.

“It’s really hard to look at yourself and realize what you did wrong in the relationship, but when you do, you can start to change your process and get more of what you’re really looking for.” And that feels good. , sooo good.

5. Take on a new hobby

A breakup can take a serious toll on your confidence, but the problem of self-image goes deeper than that: If you were in a long-term—and/or a codependent relationship—you might experience a bit of an identity crisis when you're suddenly solo.

One ace way to drown yourself in self-love and pride? Pursue a new passion—and put in the time and effort to get really good at it.

Having a hobby won't just make you feel better, it'll also give you something else to do besides think about your breakup. «Willpower only goes so far,» says Dr. Chloe. «It's really helpful to be doing something instead of just fighting the urge to reach out to your ex.»

6. Date, date, date

It might feel the last thing you want to do, but it's hugely important.

For one, post-breakup depression can intensify significantly if you feel you're stuck in a destructive pattern (of, say, always pursuing guys who are emotionally unavailable), because you'll ly develop a «dating sucks!» mentality. (Sound familiar?)

“You might feel dating anyone will land you in the same place again, so you start to isolate and give up because it feels you’re banging your head against the wall,” explains Dr. Chloe. But get out there and start dating—, multiple people at once—and you'll find some fun it, too.

And more than that, spending time with other potential romantic partners is a great way to stop fixating on your ex, says Dr. Chloe.

“When we focus on one person, we start to believe that they must be really special, or why would you bend over backwards for them,” she explains. Dating does the opposite.

“You start to think, ‘If I’m dating other people, it’s because I must believe there are other people out there for me.’ Remember, every other single person has not met the right person yet, either.”

Do you feel that? Yes, that's hope. Exactly what your sweet little heart needs after a breakup.

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Mental Illness and Breakups: The Relationship Between Depression, Love, and Dating

An Overview of Breakup Depression

Heartbreak hurts.

Ending relationships can cause feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, and loneliness. And if you’ve been through a breakup or divorce, you know these feelings all too well. Each person heals in different ways and in their own time.

Some people may experience depression following the end of a relationship. However, it may not be clear if the feelings are sadness or clinical depression.

Sadness, insomnia, or loss of interest in activities are all common emotions after ending a relationship, according to Healthline. However, if you experience more than half of the symptoms below for more than two weeks, you could be diagnosed with depression:

  • Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless for most of the day nearly every day.
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite, or increase of appetite and weight gain.
  • Sleeping either too little or too much.
  • An increase in movements pacing or hand wringing, or having significantly slower speech and movement.
  • Feeling as if you have no energy for most of the day.
  • Feeling worthless.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  • Thoughts about death, also called suicidal ideation.

The Science of Depression & Breakups

Our brain chemistry contributes to how we respond to breakups and why they are so tough to overcome, according to a study in the Journal of Neurophysiology. The study found that love is a “goal-oriented motivational state rather than a specific emotion.” In other words, relationships, romantic ones in particular, invoke an instinct necessary for human survival.

The study also found that the feelings toward a former partner following a breakup trigger the same part of the brain that’s activated when someone has a drug craving. Your feelings about another person following romantic rejection, the study suggests, are a specific form of addiction.

Enjoyable time spent with another person acts a reward system to the brain. Emotionally positive social interactions cause people to crave and anticipate similar experiences.

When a major source of happiness is removed from someone’s life, they often struggle to see how they will replace that person and those moments.

After a breakup, your brain may simply be reminding you that social relationships are important. It’s why face-to-face interactions in a group setting or with a friend, “helps to alleviate depression and prevent relapse,” according to Psych Central.

Biological factors, including decreased levels of dopamine and serotonin, can help explain sadness after breakups. But symptoms are not meant to be long-term.

Psychology Today suggests overcoming this biological hurdle by telling yourself positive affirmations, :

  • My distress is a result of brain chemistry and I’m not crazy. Just temporarily off balance.
  • My anxieties and insecurities don’t necessarily reflect what’s really going on.
  • It’s okay for me to feel sad that this relationship has ended. As I grieve, I am moving toward healing.
  • I am a growing, changing person and can learn from this experience.

If symptoms persist or worsen long after the end of a relationship, ask for professional help. Untreated depression can lead to several health problems. Just a few of the complications of untreated depression are the use of drugs and alcohol to mask emotions, joint pain, headaches, panic attacks, problems at school, and suicidal thoughts.

Healing After a Breakup

Following a breakup, there are many ways to get back on track.

First, some simple steps toward feeling better about yourself and staying mentally refreshed include tracking sleep, enhancing your diet, exercising, or pursuing a hobby. There are many ways to surround yourself with things that bring you joy, with the key being to find something that works for you.

If you are diagnosed with clinical depression, your doctor may recommend psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. In fact, when both forms of therapy are used together, patients could potentially experience better results.

If your doctor prescribes medication, there are a number of different medications he or she could choose.

The GeneSight® test can use your unique genetic information to help your doctor get a better understanding of which medications may be more ly to work and which may require dose adjustments, may be less ly to work, or may have an increased risk of side effects.

Using the GeneSight test report, your doctor can personalize your treatment plan, finding a more genetically-optimal medication while avoiding medicines that may cause side effects.

It’s hard when romantic relationships end. Depression can complicate things. Be sure to talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have depression.


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