Is Breakup Depression Real?

Any significant life change, like a romantic breakup, can take a serious toll on your mental and emotional health. Splits create emotional conflict. They can also change your living circumstances and financial situation.

It is common for you to feel down and emotional after the breakup, even if your split is straightforward and does not create any long-term issues. But, there are times when such a stressful event leads to clinical depression.

Risk Factors

Going through a breakup does not mean you will automatically develop depression. You are more likely to be diagnosed with depression after separation if you:

  • Have Multiple Points of Stress
  • Lack a Support Network
  • Have a History of Depression or Adjustment Disorder
  • Misuse Alcohol or Drugs

Symptoms to Watch For

Symptoms can be mild or very severe after a breakup. They can come on strong for a short time or be milder but linger. It can be difficult to distinguish between natural feelings at the end of your relationship and signs of depression that warrant a visit with your doctor.

Here are the warning signs that need closer attention:

  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Changes in Your Appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of Energy
  • Lack of Interest
  • Feeling Hopeless or Worthless
  • Easily Irritated or Angry
  • Difficulty Making Decisions
  • Ongoing Feelings of Sadness
  • Feeling Empty
  • Apathetic Towards Life
  • Thoughts of Suicide

If there is no improvement in your feelings within a few weeks, you should see your doctor for an evaluation.

Additive Factors

When going through a breakup, associated events can worsen your mood.

  • Your shared friends may choose sides, leading to additional “friend breakups” and less social support.
  • You might have financial stress and have to take back sole responsibility for expenses.
  • You could be dealing with an unexpected move into your own place, which can be lonely.
  • You may have the additional challenge of learning to co-parent with your ex.

These adjustments are challenging and can trigger insecurities, confusion, anxiety, and sadness. All of this increases your stress from the breakup and can increase the likelihood of depression.

Coping Strategies

Typically, if your breakup triggered depressive symptoms, they will resolve on their own within six months. If you have mild or moderate symptoms, you may be able to handle them independently.

Allow yourself time to grieve the loss of your partner and relationship. It is healthy to feel sad, frustrated, and regret what happened for a time. Your identity gets wrapped up in the relationship, and the breakup can often alter how you think about yourself. There is an adjustment period to your new self-concept and being single again.

Physical activity will release endorphins and help lessen the feelings of depression. Socializing with friends will also elevate your mood and minimize stress. Developing a solid social support network will help you move on and is a protective factor for future life changes. Try not to isolate yourself. However, decreasing social media use and exposure to your ex will help speed up recovery.

Avoid ruminating on the past and what went wrong, focusing on areas of your life you can control. You will feel empowered when you create goals to work towards and accomplished when you achieve them. Try out a new hobby or start that new project you have been eyeing.

Treatment

If your symptoms are more severe or worsening, you should check in with your doctor. If you struggle to do your normal daily activities, you should immediately make an appointment. Breakup depression is not a medical diagnosis, so your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms to determine the best treatment course. Your doctor may suggest trying:

  • Antidepressants: These medications will help chemical imbalances in your brain that affect how you feel and cope with stress.
  • Talk Therapy: You can healthily process your thoughts and feelings by talking through how you feel. Even if you are not diagnosed with depression, therapy can help you gain perspective, learn coping skills, and address negative thought patterns.
  • Alternative Depression Treatment: If you are already seeing a therapist or taking antidepressants without relief, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy might be a treatment option that will offer relief.

Whether you wanted the split or not, severing a bond with another person brings up a lot of emotions and changes. It can lead to positive changes in the form of a new hobby, stronger family ties, and friendships. But, it can also bring on anxiety, depression, and mental health crises.

Focus on positives in your life, your coping mechanisms, and taking care of yourself. You should expect to feel sad and a little lost for a short time, but seek medical treatment if those feelings last longer than they should or worsen over time. You can and should find joy in life after a breakup.

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