Break up depression: a need to understand it

understanding break up depression

Love is a feeling but a relationship sparks a deeper connection. You become used to the person you love, being around you. Therefore, his/her omnipresence in your life gives you a sense of comfort, control and belonging. But not all relationships last. Differences can certainly arise and they can make you drift away from your partner to the extent that leaving them is the only option left available.

The break-up of a relationship ranks as one of the most stressful life events- it’s up there with the death of a loved one.  After the initial shock, when you may feel like you were just hit by a truck, sadness and loneliness often take over.

Breaking up with your significant other is hard, especially if it was someone you felt strongly about and the end of the relationship was a shock.

The end of a relationship – whether it lasted for weeks, months or years – can leave us feeling upset and uneasy about what comes next.

Leaving someone you loved is not an easy Passover. You had spent wonderful times with each other and long after the person is gone from your life, the memories languish in your mind, making you feel hurt and dejected.

A part of you feels empty and alone. Consequently, you get detached from your surroundings and numbness engulfs you as you no longer have that person around you that you valued so highly.

Nature of breakups

Breakups are painful, especially when you were with your partner for a long time. Conversely, we never go into relationships wanting them to end but there are always things that are going to be out of your control.

It’s normal to grieve for a while as you take your time accepting what has happened but at some point you’re going to have to pull yourself together because the longer you spend your time sulking over what transpired, the harder it will be to pull yourself out of this quagmire.

Why we break up

Every relationship is unique, and you (or your other half) will have your own reasons for calling it quits. But research suggests that most breakups have one of eight broad causes: a desire for more autonomy, a lack of shared interests or character traits, a lack of support, a lack of openness, a lack of loyalty, a lack of time spent together, a lack of fairness, or a lack of romance. (Interestingly, for women, a desire for autonomy is one of the main reasons for a split.)

How we break up

Breakups aren’t accidents, and unless infidelity is involved, they’re usually not spur-of-the-moment decisions. Thus if you’re heartbroken, remind yourself that your partner likely arrived at their conclusion after a substantial amount of time and reflection.

An analysis of individual breakup points, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, shows just how complex and expansive the process of separation can be. The authors identified 16 steps that occur before the final breakup. Though these events don’t always happen in this order, it may comfort you to know that the decision probably wasn’t easy.

16 steps before final breakup

1. A partner loses interest in his or her significant other.

2. Next, the disinterested partner starts to notice attractive alternative options, who could make potential dating partners.

3. Then, the disinterested partner begins to withdraw from the relationship emotionally and/or physically.

4. The partners try to work things out.

5. The partners spend less time together.

6. A lack of interest resurfaces again.

7. One partner, or perhaps this time both of them, consider ending things permanently.

8. The partners communicate their feelings with each other.

9. The partners try to work things out again.

10. Despite still trying to work things out, one or both begin to notice other people.

11. One or both partners begin to act distant.

12. One or both may go on dates with other people, while still seeing each other.

13. The cycle repeats itself as the partners decide to get back together again and try one last time.

14. One or both partners consider breaking up again.

15. One or both seriously distance themselves and gain a feeling of having moved on, while still technically being in the relationship.

16. The couple breaks up.

And if your breakup was a messy one, take solace in the fact that most of them are. In a survey from polling firm YouGov, 58% of respondents said that their relationships tend to end dramatically, while only a quarter said their splits are usually civil.

What happens to body in break up blues

As with love at first sight, the pain of rejection affects the same areas of the brain as cocaine. Thus, love can bring on cocaine-like high in a fifth of a second. Brain wave studies reported by Stephanic Ortigue, Ph.D., identified “the cortical networks associated with passionate love.” But the reaction to the break-up can last for days.  In addition to emotional highs and lows, it can even include symptoms so severe that women in particular may find themselves in the emergency room with symptoms mimicking a heart attack. 

Heartbreak pain is triggered by a hormone experienced after the loss of a loved one, a traumatic ending to a love affair, or divorce. This sends the heart’s pumping ability into a type of freeze mode affecting the left ventricle. Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky in the cardiovascular epidemiology research unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Harvard explained that during earlier interviews that after the death of a loved one, the heart-attack risk is 21 times higher within 24 hours.

Futhermore, research even shows the pain from a breakup can activate pain receptors in our brain the same way that physical injuries do.

Love is addiction

In the aftermath of a breakup, people can find themselves obsessively focusing on their ex-partners. Thus, you may spend more time and energy on trying to see your ex, compulsively check in on them online, and feel like you’re losing self-control. You might feel, in other words, like you’re addicted to your ex.

The reason for this behavior may lie deep within our brain’s circuitry. Addiction studies have found that drug cravings increased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain  associated with reward — and the same thing happens when we think about or see an ex.

Mechanism behind addiction to love

How exactly does this work? When dopamine is released, it interacts with glutamate, another neurotransmitter, to activate the brain’s reward-related learning system. Moreover, it’s the same circuit that helps humans learn basic survival skills, like eating. When you’re continuously exposed to someone or something that gives you pleasure, your brain learns that it needs this person, object, or substance. That’s why seeing a photo of your ex can make you want to call or see them. Fortunately, addictions can be broken.

Breakups can take a serious toll on your well-being. Not only can the end of a relationship lead to major life changes in finances and living situations, but breakups also create a great deal of emotional turmoil. Some splits are easier than others. Moreover, you might be able to let go and move on fairly quickly. In other cases, however, you might feel angry, sad, bitter, anxious, and heartbroken.

All of these emotions can be perfectly normal after a romantic breakup—but if they lead to prolonged feelings of sadness and apathy, consequently it might be a sign that something more serious is going on. Also, stressful life events such as a breakup or divorce can sometimes trigger prolonged and severe emotional distress.

Furthermore, one study found that even normal post-breakup emotional states closely resemble clinical depression.

Symptoms of breakup depression

Feelings of sadness can vary from mild to severe after a breakup. Sometimes these feelings can be strong for a relatively brief period of time. In other cases, however, people might feel milder feelings of sadness that linger for a longer period of time.

Because the emotional responses to a breakup can vary so greatly, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if what you are feeling is a natural response to the end of a relationship or something more serious. More serious symptoms that may indicate depression include:

-Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

-Losing or gaining weight; appetite changes

-Sleeping too much or too little

-Loss of pleasure and interest

-Feelings of worthlessness

-Feeling sad, empty, or worthlessness

-Fatigue and lack of energy


-Thoughts of death or suicide

Grief and sadness are normal reactions after a stressful life event. Also, research has found that breakups can influence people in a number of profound ways. Following the end of a relationship, people report experiences such as distress, loneliness, and a loss of self-esteem.

Give yourself time to grieve the loss of the relationship. Moreover, healthy responses include a period of sadness, crying, frustration, and regret. It is a period of adjustment, so you need to give yourself some time to cope and heal before you are able to move on. While upsetting, these feelings usually start to lessen with time as you recover from the breakup.


Breakup depression is not an actual medical term or diagnosis, but this does not mean that what you are feeling after a breakup does not represent a real condition. Once you decide to talk to your doctor or mental health professional about it, then they will ask you a number of questions about your symptoms.

You will need to explain the symptoms you have been having, how long you have had them, and how severe they are.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might diagnose you with adjustment disorder with depressed mood (sometimes referred to as situational depression). Adjustment disorders are conditions that can occur when you have marked distress or difficulty functioning following a stressful life event.

To be diagnosed with this condition, you must:

-Begin experiencing symptoms 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 that also take into account other things in your life that might influence your symptoms

-Have symptoms that are not the result of another mental disorder

How long will the misery last?

A friend once told me: “I was with him for five years. Only now, after two years, am I truly happy to be on my own.” For her, the famous “dump equation” — the idea that it takes half the length of a relationship to get over it — more or less applied.

This equation certainly sounds nice and tidy. But people are different, and so are relationships. Hence, relying on math to predict the end of your mourning can set you up for failure.

That’s not to say that having a “deadline” isn’t helpful for some. Perhaps knowing that you are “allowed” five years to get over an ex is an encouraging thought. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to explore your feelings. In fact, rumination after a breakup has been shown to stimulate greater self-transformation. So take the time to understand that the time you spent with your partner wasn’t a waste — you are a different person now. Consequently, you’ve grown thanks to your relationship.


The end of an intimate bond can signal a whole host of life changes. Conversely, sometimes these changes can be a good thing—it can lead to personal growth or moving on to a relationship that is more supportive and loving.

In some cases, they can result in lingering feelings of depression. While it is normal to be sad or even heartbroken for a while after a breakup, you should talk to a professional if your symptoms seem to be stronger or lasting longer than you would normally expect

Your brain is incredible. Though it’s capable of causing you intense pain, it can also give you relief. However, it simply takes time.


  1. 5 Ways to Ease the Post-Breakup Blues By abbas ali 1
  2. 8 Tried And Tested Ways To Get Over The Break Up Blues

             by LOUISA IRVIN

  • The Scientific Way to Get Over a Breakup

               Anne Freier

  • Rita Watson MPH

              Break Up Blues: 13 Thoughts to Help You Recover

  • An Overview of Breakup Depression

               By Kendra Cherry  Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD

  • 5 Ways to Avoid Depression After a Break-Up

Dr. Irena Milentijevic

  • Why Most Breakups Follow These 16 Steps

Mariana Bockarova Ph.D.

Leave a Reply

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