Letting Go > Breaking Up > How to Overcome Depressed Feelings After a Breakup

How to Overcome Depressed Feelings After a Breakup

Post break up, you may feel depressed, lonely, afraid, and anxious. Here’s how to overcome depression after a breakup, plus important tips on how your body and emotions are reacting to the end of your relationship.

Your heart feels emotionally broken, but did you know the breakup had a physical effect on your body as well? Your heart is physically responding to the stress of the breakup – and that’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself post break up. Feeling rejected because of a relationship breakup has serious negative effects on different parts of your body, because emotional pain activates the same pathways in the brain that physical pain does. That’s why your whole body, mind, soul, and spirit hurts! In this article, I describe 1) how your body is physically responding to the stress of a relationship ending (post break up depression and anxiety); 2) the 11 most common emotions people feel after breaking up; and 3) and how to overcome breakup depression.

Post break up, your body experiences many complex physiological and psychological changes – which is why depressed feelings after a breakup are so common. It’s like you’ve been hit by a truck! Your body may be in shock, especially if your ex boyfriend already has a new girlfriend. Most of your physical and emotional responses – even depression – are due to raised cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol is the “stress hormone”, and it’s released in much higher levels during emotional and life changing events.

A breakup can make you feel out of control – and this can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and uncertainty. Your head, stomach, eyes, and immune system are negatively impacted by post break up stress and anxiety, and your body actually experiences pain and withdrawal symptoms.

Learning how your body is reacting post break up will help you overcome breakup depression.

The Physical Effects of a Breakup on Your Body

What did you feel in your stomach, guts, and head when you first broke up? If your heart dropped into your stomach and you felt physical pain, then you’re 100% normal. That’s exactly what heartbreak does. A study in the Journal of Neurophysiology revealed that broken hearts actually cause physical pain – that stomach drop, a headache, nausea, and full-body aches.

Your weight may increase – especially if you’re an emotional eater

The stress during and after a breakup can cause weight gain, especially around your tummy area. It also causes your body to crave sugar and fat, which leads to mindless eating. You may also feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach. Intense emotional pain can activate the same nerves as physical pain; you literally feel rejection in your body.

Your eyes swell and become puffy

Are you crying through this breakup? That’s good, because tears are emotionally and physically cleansing. Crying will help you heal and overcome breakup depression. Emotional tears are less salty and more watery than “regular” tears (crying caused by physical pain). Crying after a breakup will make your eyes swell up more and look puffier because the water moves by osmosis into the saltier tissues.

Your heart is physically traumatized

Cardiologists have found that it’s not unusual to see older or less healthy people die of a heart attack within the first two weeks of a spouse’s death or an unexpected breakup. This is because your body has higher adrenalin levels, which pushes it into “fight or flight” mode. Breakup depression won’t lead to death, unless you succumb to hopelessness and loneliness. But you won’t! I can tell that you’re a survivor.

If you need help moving on, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.

Your skin might break out after a breakup

Depression and stress are linked to psoriasis, eczema, alopecia, and acne. If you’re prone to eating high fat, high sugar foods (chocolate, potato chips, ice cream), then your skin will be affected even more. If you use food to help you overcome post break up depression, then your skin might get worse before it clears up.

Your brain may feel foggy and slow

Being in love activates the same portion of the brain that drugs do, and a breakup leads to painful withdrawal symptoms.

breakup depression post break up

How to Overcome Depressed Feelings After a Breakup

Researchers from Stony Brook University gave 15 men basic math equations to do after they viewed pictures of their exes after a breakup. While the men were looking at these pictures, the researchers studied their brain activity. They found that the exposure to memories of their ex-lovers activated regions of their brain that are also active in cocaine addicts who are in withdrawal and experiencing physical pain.

Brain scans of broken-hearted people found that that the breakup of a relationship produces a similar response to cocaine craving. So, you’re experiencing anxious and depressed feelings partly because your brain is literally going through withdrawal symptoms.

Your immune system is weakened

Are you fighting a cold or the flu, in addition to feeling depressed and anxious? You’re normal. Post break up, your body’s defense mechanisms are low and weak.

Since the stress of breaking up affects your immune system, you’re more likely to experience colds and the flu, as well as various autoimmune diseases. According to The American Psychological Association, the depression caused by a breakup, induced social isolation, and feelings of loneliness can all contribute to an increased chance of various health problems after the breakdown of a relationship. This, in turn, can lead to increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

Your sleep patterns may be disrupted post break up

Going through a breakup can mess up your sleep patterns. Maybe you’re sleeping more than you did before, or you’re not sleeping enough. Maybe you’re used to sharing a bed with your partner; his absence makes it even harder to sleep. If your nervous system is stressed, you have high levels of cortisol in your system, and you’re lonely…sleep may not be your companion. And this becomes a vicious cycle: if you can’t sleep, you feel stressed. This increased stress leads to less sleep, which drives up your stress even further.

And finally, people who have gone through a divorce are more likely to suffer from mobility issues, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances. The stress from a breakup can also cause muscle spasms and tightness throughout your body. All of this combines to increase breakup depression, anxiety, and even fear.

A list of all the bad things your body is going through at the end of your relationship isn’t exactly what you expected when you searched for “how to overcome depression after a breakup”, is it? But it’s important that you know that you experiencing the normal depressed feelings and physical symptoms post break up. Knowing how your body is responding to the shock, anxiety, and depression of a break up will help you recover better and faster.

11 Emotions You’ll Experience After a Breakup

After breaking up with someone you love, you will grieve. Here are the most common emotions people feel after a relationship ends. These post break up feelings – from shock to depression – are contributed by writer Kevin Thompson. He’s been helping people overcome with breakup depression for five years.

1. Shock

If you didn’t see the breakup coming, you might be in a shock for quite sometime. You will be thinking things like ”Everything was fine a few days ago, how can this happen to me.” The good news is shock will not last for long. The bad news is shock is probably the easiest of emotions you will have to go through.

2. Denial

If you had constant fights and arguments that lead to an “almost breakup” quite often, then you are likely to be in denial after the breakup. You will probably just convince yourself that this is just another one of those situation and you and your partner will make up soon enough. Denial can last a while until reality creeps in and smacks you on the face with the fact that it’s really over.

3. Bargaining

Bargaining, more commonly known on the internet (and the world) as “Get Your Ex Back.” Don’t get me wrong, getting your ex back can be a good thing if you have a good reason to get back together.  But you have to understand that bargaining is also just one of the emotions after a breakup. And getting back together just because you are going through a phase of grieving is not a good decision. In fact, you might end up regretting this decision if the relationship is not right for you.

4. Sadness

This is the phase where you just feel sad throughout the day. You get up in the morning, drag your feet to the bathroom, look in the mirror and see your pathetic face thinking, “Will I ever be happy again?” You slouch your way to the kitchen, pour yourself some cereal and manage to drag yourself to your daily activities. Sadness is not the worst of the emotions you’ll feel after a breakup. Because we all know that it will pass. What’s dangerous is obsession.

5. Obsession

You keep thinking about your ex. You stalk their Facebook, hack into their email and go over all their activities like you are working for the NSA. In fact, you go out of your way to find out where they are going for their yoga classes and you stand across the street to make sure they are not with someone else. Your day starts with your ex and it ends with your ex. You are obsessed with your ex. Obsession can be tricky business because it won’t stop until you absolutely stop all contact with your ex and delete any means of indirect communication with them (like Facebook, twitter etc.) You have to go cold turkey on your ex, even though your emotions after breaking up may feel like they’re overwhelming you.

6. Anger

Then there will be days where you will think of nothing but your ex’s faults and how they did you wrong. You will think to yourself that you are glad that the relationship is over and you will hope that they suffer for what they put you through. Even though it’s a step forward, holding a grudge against your ex is not the best way to move on.

7. Loneliness and depression

overcoming depression after breakupOf course, with hate comes love – another common emotion after a breakup. You will think of all the wonderful qualities your ex had and how much you miss them. You will feel like you were and probably are still in love with them. Again, remember it’s just a phase and you should just let it come and pass like every other emotion.

8. Fear

During a relationship people start identifying themselves as a couple; they see themselves as a part of a team and after the breakup, they find themselves suddenly alone. This new life comes with fear. Of course, it’s OK to feel fear, as it is just another emotion. What matters is how you deal with it? Do you run back and hide behind the idea of getting back together with your ex, or do you face it head on?

9. Empowerment

If you start taking control of your life after the breakup, you will feel empowered and realize that you don’t need your ex to be happy in your life.  When you realize you have conquered your fear of being single again, you will feel like you can achieve anything you want.

10. Acceptance

You will start accepting the fact that you two have broken up and there is no going back. Instead of looking back, you start planning forward. You start thinking about your happiness and your goals in life. You start planning a life, without your ex in it.

11. Forgiveness

Forgiveness is something that will come a long time after the breakup. But it’s something that is very essential in moving on. When you forgive your ex for everything wrong they did, you forgive yourself as well. At this time, you have truly moved on after the breakup.

For more help with dealing with emotions after a breakup, read How to Heal Your Heart Without Relationship Closure.

3 Ways to Overcome Post Break Up Depression

We were build for companionship, so feeling depressed post break up is not only normal…it’s healthy. Give yourself time to grieve the end of your relationship. Don’t rush it. We were programmed to protect the relationships valuable to us, and your grieving process is your way of letting go and healing.

You lost an important relationship in your life – even if it wasn’t healthy – and it’s not easy to just “get over it.” The more valuable the relationship was to you, the more dramatic your grieving process will be. You’ll experience most if not all of the emotions in the above list – including breakup depression.

1. Understand the actual cause of your breakup depression

Depressed feelings after a breakup can bring back deep-seated memories about being abandoned as a child, says psychologist Dr Susan Quilliam, author of How to Choose a Partner. We are programmed to need human contact and to be affected when human contact is withdrawn.

Overcoming Breakup Depression

3 Ways to Overcome Post Break Up Depression

“Therefore we suffer when we are abandoned,” says Dr Quilliam. “At some point everyone in childhood thinks, ‘Oh no! I’m alone and I’m going to die!’ A breakup awakens those emotions and makes us feel insecure, angry and sad.”

So you’re grieving not only the absence of your boyfriend or husband, you’re also dealing with issues from your childhood. If you have unresolved grief from your past, those emotions will rise up after this breakup. Depressed feelings will be stronger. Anger may feel overwhelming. And, your grief may be intense. In fact, the grieving process post break up is similar to losing a loved one. You may feel shock, denial, grief, anger, resentment, self-blame, helplessness, fear, and depression. Your body will feel the effects of all those painful emotions swirling around. Learning how to overcome depression after breaking up involves being aware of all this going on underneath the surface.

2. Listen carefully to your spirit, body, and soul

Have you dealt with depressed feelings in the past? If you’re prone to moderate or severe depression, then you need different ways to process your grief. Learning how to overcome depression is unique to each woman, which means you need to listen to what your body and spirit is telling you. You may need physical healing in the form of increased self-care (eg, soothing bubble baths, calming acupuncture sessions, a physical checkup from your family doctor). Or, you may need emotional healing from a counselor or psychologist.

Take time to listen to what your body is telling you. What do you need to do for yourself? How have you overcome feelings of grief or anxiety in the past – and have you experienced post break up depression before? Determine what recharges and refreshes you. The best way to restore your physical, emotional, and spiritual health is to give your body the rest, nutrition, and exercise it needs.

3. Go through the pain – don’t avoid it

You may feel tempted to avoid dealing with the pain of breakup depression. Why? Because it hurts a lot. It’s not easy to allow yourself to experience the waves of grief, anxiety, fear, and other scary emotions. You may feel like you’re going crazy. You may feel like you’ll never recover if you allow yourself to sink into the emotional abyss of your heart.

Writing in your private journal is one of the best tips on how to overcome mild depressed feelings. Journaling won’t help if you’re dealing with severe or even moderate depression after a breakup, but it can help you process the lighter feelings of sadness and anxiety. Listening to music can also be helpful – I posted a long list of breakup music in The Best Breakup Songs for Letting Go of Someone You Love.

Help for Overcoming Depression After a Breakup

emotions after a breakupIn You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death, Louise Hay and expert David Kessler discuss the emotions that occur when a relationship leaves you brokenhearted, a marriage ends in divorce, or a loved one dies. With a perfect blend of Louise’s teachings and affirmations on personal growth and transformation and David’s many years of working with those in grief, this empowering book will inspire an extraordinary new way of thinking, bringing hope and fresh insights into your life and even your current and future relationships. You will not only learn how to help heal your grief, but you will also discover that, yes, you can heal your heart.

letting go of someone you loveI wrote 75 How to Let Go of Someone You Love: 3 Powerful Secrets (and 75 Tips!) for Healing Your Heart because I needed to learn how to overcome depression after my sister left my life. Letting her go was the most painful and difficult thing I ever did, but I had no choice.

To write this ebook, I interviewed life coaches, counselors, and grief coaches on letting go. I know how shocking, confusing, and heart-wrenching it is when you’re letting go of a loved one. It’s devastating – and it changes how you see yourself. Learning how to let go of someone you love is about rediscovering your passion and identity.

Here’s what a reader recently emailed me about Letting Go of Someone You Love: “I gobbled the book down. Great help in putting things in perspective and in taking positive thoughtful action. Many thanks for sharing your wisdom and experiences.”

How do you feel, now that you have an idea of how your body is physically and emotionally responding to the end of your relationship? You may find it helpful to share your experience of post break up depression, or tell me how and why your relationship ended. I can’t offer advice, but writing is a healthy way to work through and overcome depression after a breakup.


Need encouragement? Get my free weekly "Echoes of Joy"!

* indicates required

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

26 thoughts on “How to Overcome Depressed Feelings After a Breakup”

  1. Thank you for writing this post. I suffered from depression after my girlfriend broke up with me but thankfully, I’m managing at the moment. About 2 years ago, I went to a General practitioner to ask for antidepressant – believing it would help to stop my “negative thoughts”. I ended up on 2 courses of Prozac and Pristiq. Strangely, I did not feel any effect from the medicine. I won’t say that antidepressants are unhelpful; maybe it just didn’t suit me. After that, I also went to 2 psychologists and have been told that “I just need to change my way of thinking” and medication won’t help in my case. In other words, I just need determination – which is easier said than done.

    Anyways, I’m thankful for your help overcoming breakup depression because it makes me feel that someone out there have challenges in life and they are winning the battles.

  2. Pingback: How to Spend Your Birthday After a Breakup ⋆ How Love Blossoms

  3. this post was amazingly helpful and affirming. I’ve been working through many of these issues, some for far too long, after the shock of my 40 year marriage ended. (One would think you’d have it all together after 40 years!)
    It is actually comforting to be able to put it all into “what’s happening physically” perspective. Thank you for your insight and research. I look forward to continuing on with your other posts/books

  4. I was married for 35 years my wife told she did not love me anymore. That I never realized it. The shock was so intense that I pack my stuff and left our home. It’s been 3 weeks and I still can’t get over the pain. I try to keep busy but you always return back to your thoughts. She explained to me that it was the sins of my past. When We Were Young you feel like I’m 60% at fault or more. But the last 20 years I had changed for her did save my life. I know I have to move on that clear to its just so hard

    1. It’s really tough. I’ve lost felt similar way after a lose. It took me about 8 months to come right and the first few were too hard. But a year later I’m back to my normal self. I think you will need some time like I did. I helped me to have a couple people I could talk to. I tried a counselor which might be worth a try for you. But keep talking to friends that’s important.

    2. We stayed for three years,he had a baby from another girl while we were broken up.Then we got back together,we were planning to have a trip to somewhere together,….but when I gave told him am not physically feeling well…..he acted as if it’s alright,but two days later he had shutted me for good…..help ,am confused about what to do next.

  5. i broke up wth a lady I had been wth six yrs plus….Some one who had once told me shes ready for me wheneva i am, shes showered me love so much in d past that I alwz thanked God for giving me her…In just few months of relocating to the Uk and leaving me here in Nigera, Like a tsunami, in the space of two months the relationship came crumbling…..The way it ended, i tink is probabaly the worst any cud go tru…She “ghosted me” only to call back after two months telling me its ova, Meanwhile I had tried all to save the rlatnship in the same period, she shut me out, blocked me everywhere….She was my all, Thanks to the break up dou cos now i have a better definition of ‘all” ,I mean my friend, sister, collegue, advicer, etc..we loved and everyone around knew and tot we were best couples soon to be..
    The shock of the new realitiy has affected me so much, I had started giving up cos this relationship was so dear to me, the impact is second to none. Fear, anxiety, self-hate, low self esteem, stomach upset, heart pain, muscle cramps, fever, uncertainty, loss of sleep, loneliness, masturbation,worries, anger, loss of enthusiasm, hatred, being slow/foggy at work , all became a part of me till i knew i was gradually drowning into oblivion as life became less exciting and lastly suicide….I had to begin to talk to myself,cos I know who I was before all this. it became a daily struggle, but its just nt getting easier yet…..but wth this article if there is anythn av learnt, it is that its a phase and all these feelngs are temporal….I cant wait to have my life back to normal , but then again I know its up to me..

  6. I feel horrible afraid, angry,hurt and bloody lonely…its been two years me and my baby daddy separated but it feels like yesterday…I can’t go a day without thinking about him…I don’t know if is love or obsession. ..i’m tired of the way I feel…i’m hopeless towards life and love again…..