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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Of 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
“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
In 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.
I 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.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.