Depression after a breakup can have a serious impact on your health. Breakups not only cause major life changes in finances and living situations, but they also cause a great deal of emotional turmoil. Some splits are more difficult than others. You may be able to let go and move on relatively quickly. In other cases, you may feel irritated, sad, bitter, anxious, or heartbroken.
All of these feelings are normal after a romantic breakup, but if they lead to prolonged feelings of sadness and apathy, it could be a sign of something more serious. Life events that are stressful, such as a breakup or divorce, can sometimes cause prolonged and severe emotional distress.
Having depression and other symptoms after a relationship breakup is sometimes diagnosed as an adjustment disorder; having a depressed mood is also sometimes referred to as a situational depression. Because these feelings associated with adjustment disorders can last anywhere from six months to two years, it is critical to understand the signs and symptoms so that you can seek help and support if necessary.
After a breakup, feelings of sadness can range from mild to severe. These feelings can be intense for a short period of time at times. In other cases, people may experience milder sadness that lasts for a longer period of time.
Because emotional reactions to a breakup can vary so greatly, it can be difficult to determine whether what you are experiencing is a natural reaction to the end of a relationship or something more serious. More serious symptoms of depression after a breakup includes:
- A sense of helplessness or hopelessness
- Weight loss or gain; changes in appetite
- Excessive or insufficient sleep
- Loss of enjoyment and interest
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Sadness, emptiness, or a sense of worthlessness
- Tiredness and a lack of energy
- Suicidal or death-related thoughts
Grief and sadness are natural reactions to a traumatic life event. Breakups have been shown in studies to have a wide range of profound effects on people. People report feelings of distress, loneliness, and loss of self-esteem after the end of a relationship.
Allow yourself some time to mourn the loss of the relationship. A period of sadness, crying, frustration, and regret are all appropriate responses. It is an adjustment period, so give yourself some time to cope and heal before you can move on. While upsetting, these feelings usually subside as you recover from the breakup.
If your symptoms appear to be more serious than normal sadness after a breakup, or if they appear to be worsening, speak with your doctor about how you are feeling.
This is a type of situational depression that occurs after a breakup. A breakup can be a major turning point in a person’s life. Not only does it mean that you are no longer involved with someone you once loved, but it can also result in a slew of other life changes.
Shared friends may take sides, resulting in the dissolution of other relationships. You may need to adjust your finances, and living situation, or even deal with the difficulties of co-parenting children with your ex.
Breakups can also have an impact on how you see yourself. According to one study, the end of a romantic relationship had an impact on how university students felt about their academic performance, including their ability to concentrate, homework, and test scores.
Another study discovered that breakups not only changed people’s self-concept but that people who had a greater disruption in their self-image were also more likely to experience post-breakup emotional distress.
All of these adjustments can be difficult. They can leave you feeling befuddled, insecure, anxious, and depressed. In some cases, it may cause more severe and long-lasting depression symptoms.
Depression after a breakup is not a medical term or diagnosis, but it does not imply that what you are experiencing after a breakup is not a real condition. When you decide to consult with your doctor or a mental health professional, they will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. You will need to describe your symptoms, how long you have had them, and how severe they are.
Your doctor may diagnose you with adjustment disorder with a depressed mood based on your symptoms (sometimes referred to as situational depression). Adjustment disorders are conditions that can occur when you experience significant distress or difficulty functioning as a result of a stressful life event.
According to the DSM-5, you must have the following symptoms to be diagnosed with this condition:
- Symptoms begin within three months of the identifiable stress (in this case, a breakup)
- Have symptoms that are out of proportion to the severity of the trauma, taking into account other aspects of your life that may influence your symptoms.
- Exhibit symptoms that are not caused by another mental disorder.
The good news is that, even if you do experience depression symptoms following a breakup, they usually begin to improve on their own six months later. In most cases, as time passes, your situation improves and you begin to recover from the depression after a breakup, you will gradually feel much better.
If your symptoms are mild to moderate, you may be able to manage them on your own with good self-care and a strong support system.
Talk to your doctor or therapist if your symptoms are more severe or if you just need a little extra help coping. Counseling can help you gain perspective, address negative thought patterns, and develop coping skills that will benefit you now and in the future. If your symptoms are severe or do not appear to be improving, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or other medications to help.
There are things you can do to make it easier to cope after a relationship ends, whether you’re experiencing normal post-breakup sadness or something more serious. While it is impossible to predict who will experience post-breakup depression, there are things you can do to help make yourself more resilient to stressful events.
You can do the following:
- Establishing a strong social support network, including online communities
- Taking care of oneself and one’s health
- Improve your problem-solving abilities.
- Work to boost your self-esteem.
- Establish workable objectives.
- Take the first steps toward resolving your issues.
- Discover your life’s purpose.
Writing about your feelings or positive experiences has also been shown in studies to improve coping after a traumatic event.
Finding ways to keep yourself occupied can also be beneficial. While you may be tempted to ruminate, doing things that keep your mind and body busy will keep you from ruminating on negative thoughts. Try starting a new project around the house or a new hobby that you’ve been thinking about.
Depression After Breakup with Narcissist
A narcissist’s reaction to a breakup can vary depending on the type of narcissist you’re dating and the state you’re in when you break-up up with them. However, keep in mind that you are not in a relationship with a fully developed person; who has a true and authentic self, and they will react using defense mechanisms designed to keep the narcissist from feeling intense emotional pain and shame.
1. A Less Difficult Breakup
The easy way out is that you’re dating a grandiose narcissist who was never really interested in you in the first place. They will gladly let you go and move on to the next shiny object; however, they will want to make sure that the “break up story” makes it appear that they were the ones who left. It might be a good idea to take the easy way out if they offer it to you.
2. A More Difficult Break-Up
Because a central component of narcissism is profound insecurity, narcissists will typically go on the offensive if they cannot find a way to save face. Narcissists belong to a subset of personality disorders characterized by a proclivity for dramatic emotions. As a result, if they are offended, they may end up venting their rage on you. If you’re an empath, this can be especially distressing. If this occurs, the best thing you can do is avoid engaging them and maintain strict boundaries.
You break up with a covert narcissist who lives in the shadows but props up their partner in order to feel important themselves, they’ll be furious at feeling undervalued, act helpless, and say they “gave you everything.” They will most likely portray you as a mean, abandoning, cruel, and selfish person who hasn’t appreciated everything they’ve done for you, and may self-harm, threaten suicide, quit their job, or do other things to undermine themselves when they feel abandoned.
Narcissistic partners are often incapable of accepting responsibility for their actions. While ending a relationship that you have invested months or years in can be painful and difficult, consider what you can learn from the situation. Unfortunately, many mental health professionals believe that narcissistic disorders are on the rise, but learning how to identify a narcissist can help you avoid future relationships with this type of person. Once you’ve recovered from your breakup, you’ll be in a much better position to find a much healthier partner and enjoy a more mutual and supportive relationship.
How to Recognize If You’re Depressed
After a breakup, it’s normal to feel down for a while. However, major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is not the same as normal sadness. It is ongoing, lasts at least two weeks, and can have an impact on all aspects of your life. Stressful life events, such as a breakup, can set off depression. However, having depression-like symptoms without having a mood disorder is possible. It’s critical to understand what symptoms to look for.
You must have several of the following symptoms to be diagnosed with clinical depression:
- Persistent sadness or worry
- A sense of “emptiness”
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness in general
- Loss of hope for the future
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep issues
- Difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions
- Sluggish movement or talking
- Suffering from body aches or stomach problems
- Suicidal or death thoughts
Risk Factors of Depression After Breakup
Most people do not experience depression following a breakup. However, it is more likely to occur in certain circumstances. This includes the following:
- You’ve struggled with depression in the past. If you’ve previously experienced a depressive episode, you’re more likely to experience another one.
- You are a drug and alcohol abuser. A substance use disorder can conceal a hidden mood disorder or exacerbate depression.
- You suffer from an adjustment disorder. This is a condition in which you have an extremely strong reaction to stress or a sudden change. It may take 3-6 months for your depression symptoms to subside. It may take longer in some cases.
- You don’t have any social support. When you are depressed, you may withdraw from your friends and family. On the other hand, loneliness can exacerbate your sadness.
- You are dealing with multiple stressors at the same time. If you have to move, get a new job, or experience another type of change or loss at the same time, your breakup may be more difficult to handle.
How to Deal with Depression After Breakup
It will take time, but there are steps you can take to overcome depression after a breakup. Because everyone is unique, what works for one person may not work for another. The most important thing is that you look after yourself along the way.
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Here are some healthy ways to make yourself feel better:
- Avoid social media: You might be tempted to check in on your ex on social media. However, these reminders may elicit negative emotions and slow your recovery.
- Avoid your ex: Avoiding your ex isn’t always possible, especially if you have children. However, try to limit contact as much as possible immediately following the breakup.
- Establish thought boundaries: Ruminating increases your chances of depression. That is when you think about something repeatedly. You might be able to gain some control over your obsessive thoughts if you set aside a specific amount of time each day, say, 30 minutes, to process your breakup.
- Practice mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation teaches you to focus on the present moment. According to research, the practice may help you worry and ruminate less.
- Exercise: Physical activity a few times a week for 3-6 months may help some people reduce their symptoms of depression.
- Be gentle with yourself: A breakup can be damaging to your self-esteem. Rather than dwelling on what went wrong, try to learn from your mistakes. That will help you have better relationships in the future.
- Discuss how you’re doing: Don’t keep your emotions bottled up inside. According to one study, people felt better after meeting with researchers to discuss how well they were coping with their breakup.
- Don’t isolate yourself: Even if you don’t talk about your breakup, it’s critical to maintain contact with others. If you are unable to meet in person, communicate with friends or family via text or video chat.
- Consider the future: Thinking about your next relationship may help you feel more hopeful in the future.
When Should You Seek Professional Assistance?
Consult your primary care physician or a psychologist if your low mood persists and does not improve after a few weeks. If you are unable to bathe, eat, or go to work, you should schedule an appointment sooner.
Your doctor may recommend that you try one or both of the following:
- Counseling: A counselor can assist you in processing your thoughts and emotions in a healthy manner. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, or problem-solving therapy may be beneficial to you.
- Medication: Antidepressants affect how you feel and how you deal with stress by acting on chemicals in your brain. It is possible that you will need to try several options before settling on the best one. Allow them at least 2-4 weeks to complete their work. Do not stop taking them without first consulting your doctor.
- Seek immediate help if you are thinking about hurting yourself: Suicidal ideation is a serious symptom of depression. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time of day or night.
The end of an intimate relationship can herald a slew of life changes. These changes can sometimes be beneficial, leading to personal growth or moving on to a more supportive and loving relationship.
They can, in some cases, lead to long-term depression. While it is normal to feel sad or even heartbroken after a breakup, you should seek professional help if your symptoms appear to be stronger or last longer than you would expect. Focus on self-care, reach out to friends and family for support, and don’t be afraid to consult your doctor if your symptoms appear to be worsening.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Clinical depression is a serious mental illness that has a negative impact on how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Clinical depression, in contrast to normal sadness, is persistent, frequently interferes with a person’s ability to experience or anticipate pleasure, and significantly interferes with daily functioning. Untreated, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years; and if not treated properly, depression can cause significant impairment, other health issues, and, in rare cases, suicide.
WHY IS DEPRESSION MORE PREVALENT IN WOMEN THAN IN MEN?
Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Approximately 20% of women will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Many potential causes and contributing factors to women’s increased risk of depression are being investigated by scientists. Women’s higher depression rates may be linked to the biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that are unique to women. Hormones, for example, have been shown by researchers to influence brain chemistry, thereby influencing emotions and mood.