After Breakup Depression: Symptoms, Causes, and What to do
After Breakup Depression:
Sometimes grief over the end of a love relationship (breakup/divorce) can lead to depression. Living as a couple is an experience that can be extremely rewarding. However, love and relationships are also complex, and it is likely that sometimes things will not work out and the relationship will finally come to an end. It could be anything, sometimes a very little harsh talk or something bigger like cheating, lying, and insincerity, etc. No matter what the cause behind a breakup is, but most of the time it leads to tension, stress, anxiety and depression.
Research has shown that the end of a relationship is something that usually causes great pain and sadness, to the point that people often report depression because of the breakup. But, although the experience is obviously not (as a general rule) rewarding and similar symptoms are common!
The point needed to be noticed is:
Is there really an after-breakup depression? Is there any chance of depression arise after a breakup?
If it really an after breakup depression, what to do to fight it?
Let’s see it throughout this article.
Before going into assessing the possible affective reactions that may arise after suffering a love breakup, it is worth first commenting on what we are talking about when we refer to depression. This is necessary since normative reactions or even moods in which sadness abounds but which do not meet the criteria for becoming a true depression are often taken for depressions.
One of the most frequent and prevalent mental disorders worldwide is called major depression, which is characterized by the presence of a sad mood and/or the lack of ability to perceive gratification, joy or pleasure, even from those activities that previously excited us.
In addition to these symptoms, the presence of strong hopelessness regarding the future, a feeling of guilt and worthlessness, extreme passivity, sleeping problems, a tendency to isolation, loss of appetite and weight, loss of energy and fatigue, concentration problems, physical and mental slowing, and psychomotor agitation, etc.
These symptoms, and especially the first two, are present for most of the time and almost every day for at least two weeks and cannot be due to substance use or other disorders such as the presence of psychotic problems.
Part of these symptoms may arise in response to specific situations, specifically sadness, concentration problems or loss of weight, appetite and absence of sleep. But as a general rule, they are not considered part of a major depression unless they exceed the normal reaction to the loss involved, in this case, the termination of the relationship.
Depression due to Breakup:
There is no doubt that a romantic breakup is an experience that can be painful and even traumatic depending on the circumstances that surround it. Especially, if it is not mutually agreed and when one of them wants to continue the relationship: And although the situation is usually very painful for the person left behind, it can also be difficult for the one who leaves. In most cases, it generates great sadness, suffering and doubts, as well as a loss of desire to do things and an increase in the tendency to isolate oneself.
Now, it must be borne in mind that there is no “breakdown depression” as a diagnostic label. In fact, although there are reactive depressions to certain events and a romantic break-up can become a trigger for major depression. In most cases what we experience is a heartbroken and grieving process.
That is to say, for the most part, we are facing something normal and not pathological, since we have just suffered a loss of something that we had until now and that was important to us. And said mourning may require a long process to reach the acceptance of breakup, in which it can go through different phases.
1. Denial Stage:
In this sense, it is usual that after the breakup we first go through a stage of denial of the new situation, in which we do not experience any emotional reaction to the breakup because we have not just processed it as something real.
2. Anger Phase:
Later, a phase of anger arising from frustration may appear, in which anger and blame towards oneself or the other person may appear, or it may even be directed towards the rest of the world even though it has nothing to do with the situation.
3. Negotiation Phase:
A phase of negotiation may appear, of searching for alternatives at the mental level, of thinking about what could have changed the situation so that the breakup did not occur, or even of attempts to get back the person in life.
4. Depressive Phase:
After that would come the depressive phase, which would be the one that people most commonly considers as “breakdown depression”: in this phase, we may experience sadness, lack of desire to do things, exhaustion and apathy, ruminant thoughts regarding the other person, sleep problems or lack of appetite.
5. Acceptance Phase:
Finally, the last phase would be that of acceptance: in this phase of after breakup depression little by little, we end up processing and accepting that we will have to live our life without the other person being in it as a couple. Over time the pain of the break subsides and with it, the energies are recovered and the duel is overcome.
According to research, it will be better to allow sometime to pass before meeting with our ex-partner again, so that we can separate what this person means to us. It is considered that “if the break was positive, there’s a chance to maintain a certain relationship and even become friends again, although researchers recommend that this not be attempted until much later” than it once was.
When does this disorder appear?
Although as we have said in most cases we are facing a normative process of mourning, typical of the loss of the type of relationship we had with that person, the truth is that there are times when we can develop a real depression. This occurs when the grieving process does not end so that those who suffer it cannot reach the acceptance phase and overcome their discomfort.
Specifically, we would be talking about a reactive or situational depression or an adjustment disorder with depressive characteristics (although it can also present with anxiety or in a mixed way), in which depressive and/or anxious symptoms are manifested derived from a specific experience that we are not able to overcome and without which the problem would not exist.
This alteration generates a great dysfunctionality in different areas. In fact, the picture could end up becoming a major depression, and/or becoming a trigger for it.
How long does it takes?
Although determining an approximate date to overcome a duel is somewhat artificial (each of us has our own pace to overcome things), we can suspect the existence of a depression caused by the breakup when after this event our mood is sad the greatest part of the day on most days, we suffer from severe sleep disturbances (insomnia or excessive sleepiness), slowed speech and thinking low self-esteem, and hopelessness about the future.
The presence of cognitive distortions that perpetuate discomfort and that include an aversive view of oneself, the world and the future, feelings of worthlessness, inability to make decisions or exercise day-to-day activities, avoidance of discomfort and the pain generated by the breakup (sometimes with extreme or compulsive behaviors, such as compulsive seeking sex or drug use), extreme isolation, etc.
Although many of these alterations also occur during the after breakup depression early days, it will be in depression when they are most extreme, intense and stressed. In addition, in depression, these symptoms do not subside over time but remain, or you can even see how they get stronger as time passes.
What to do?
Guidelines to overcome depression and sadness:
Overcoming the pain of the breakup has its process and it must be respected, but in this development, we can incorporate different types of strategies to prevent the psychological pain from becoming chronic or the grief turning into something more serious and even depression. However, do your best to avoid stress and try as much as possible to start and enjoy a new life waiting for you.
1. Try to do pleasant activities:
When we are depressed or going through stressful days, it is normal that the desire to do things can be reduced. Now, even if it costs us, we must force ourselves to look for gratifications and things that motivate us. If necessary do something apparently as simple as taking a walk looking for a single inspiration or positive element to remember.
We can also try to explore and discover new activities and places. That the other person is not in our life does not mean that we cannot enjoy it.
2. Lean on yours and avoid isolating yourself:
Another common element when we are sad or depressed is the tendency to isolate or want to be alone. The truth is that this can be quite harmful since it perpetuates the feeling of abandonment and loneliness and makes it difficult to overcome the breakup depression. Friends and community are some of the best solutions to spent time with. It is much more advisable to allow yourself to lean on those around you. It is also important to be able to vent and express our feelings, doubts and fears (now, without doing it constantly or otherwise it can generate rejection).
3. Eat and Sleep Routine:
Lack of sleep and sufficient nutrients makes recovery much more difficult, both in depression due to emotional breakdown and in any other psychological alteration of mood.
Even if we don’t have an appetite, we should try to force ourselves to eat in a healthy and balanced way. When it comes to sleeping, it is advisable to try to plan the moments of sleep and prepare a scenario that allows us to relax. The practice of relaxation techniques is also recommended.
4. Value your thoughts, beliefs and demands:
When a relationship breaks down, different types of beliefs and thoughts can arise. It is advisable to try to review them objectively, without evaluating them and without judging them. It is also useful to ask whether there is an alternative interpretation.
Aspects such as what it means to have a partner, what we demand from others and from ourselves and what self-image we have are elements to be analyzed to get out of this stressful situation.
5. Don’t avoid the pain:
A common mistake that almost all of us make in these types of situations is trying to avoid the pain we feel, often actively.
Although distraction can be useful at certain times, the truth is that it is actually much more efficient to allow yourself to feel pain and discomfort in such a way that the situation can be processed both cognitively and emotionally. On the other hand, it is not about enjoying oneself and congratulating oneself in pain, but about allowing oneself to feel the suffering and not denying it. No doubt, something that would also be harmful but here it is the requirement of the day.
6. Do sports and gatherings:
Sport is a very healthy practice, which has also been useful in helping to combat psychic symptoms. It is one of the highly appreciated activities to release stress and depression in a healthy. It is all the game of turning your concentrations from negativity to positivity, from self-denial to self-acceptance and self-improvement.
A useful strategy would be to try to increase the level of games and exercises we do, something that in the long run generates an increase in endorphins that can help us get out of discomfort.
7. Seek professional help:
Although grief generally does not require professional treatment, if it becomes chronic and especially if it turns into depression, it may be necessary to seek help from a psychologist and psychotherapy specialist.
It may be beneficial to follow some type of therapy or psychological treatment in which aspects such as self-esteem, the practice of pleasant activities or the modification of cognitive biases and dysfunctional beliefs, among others, are worked on. Sometimes it may also be necessary to prescribe some kind of antidepressant or anxiolytic by a psychiatrist, although rather as a support in the process and not as a sole treatment in itself.
So, these are the few highly appreciated and practiced things to cope with after breakup depression and let yourself step into a new and happier life. No doubt, it is not as easier as described but on the other hand, it is also true that nothing is impossible. Depression can anytime be treated with consistency and willpower.
So, have you ever helped someone going through after breakup depression?