Coping With Anxiety After A Breakup
By: Sarah Fader
Updated July 15, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Kristen Hardin
Whether your relationship lasted two months or two years, the stress after a break up can be extremely tough and take a toll on your mental health. Navigating how to deal with a breakup can leave you feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically drained.
This is especially the case for people who already suffer from social anxiety. Many people worry about their choices and what the future holds when they start to wonder how to deal with a breakup.
Going through break-ups and the associated social anxiety that can accompany breaking up is completely normal and it's important to be patient with yourself during the breakup recovery process. You're grieving someone who loved you, so be gentle with yourself. The important thing to remember is, you're going to be okay with time.
Dealing with a Breakup: First Steps
When you're trying to figure out who to deal with a breakup, some questions you might find yourself asking are: "What if I feel like this forever?",and, "Should I get back with my ex?"
These types of thoughts are perfectly natural. And although it's also normal to seek immediate relief from distressing thoughts and feelings, this is actually a good time for introspection, self-reflection, and an opportunity to take good care of your mental health.
Instead of immediately contacting your ex, take a step back and be real with yourself. Once you get beyond the feelings of rejection, you'll remember that there's a reason you broke up. Sure, there were things you liked about the relationship, but there's a reason it ended.
And, it's not a failure, it's a breakup. People go through breakups all the time. You're not the first person to experience the end of a romantic relationship. Breaking up with someone doesn't mean that your mental health will never recover.
There was a reason this relationship did not work out, and you'll learn from that experience. Maybe you don't know what the reason is now, and that's okay too. You don't have to know, but you can start by accepting yourself.
You are in the process of healing, and that begins with introspection. When the "what if" fears start to grow, take a second to bring yourself back to the present moment. Focus on today. What can you do today? Mindfulness practices can be really helpful with staying in the present and reducing anxiety after a breakup.
Don't Meet Someone Else, Meet Yourself
Although it may be tempting, going straight back into the world of dating and relationships isn't always the best idea.
The saying, "hindsight is 20/20" is often true. Taking time to reflect on the relationship is a great way to learn more about yourself (and what will be important to you in future relationships). This is a crucial time to revisit the things you enjoyed before your relationship ended and take good care of your mental health.
You can go back to the gym to lower your stress levels or join breakup support groups. You can spend time cultivating hobbies and being with close friends. This could be a time to start an educational course or class, write a book, or start a blog. Immersing yourself in something other than dwelling on your past relationship will help you see a future without your ex-partner's involvement.
A good friend may try to pressure you to go out and have fun and "forget" about your ex. Be careful with this.
It is fine to go out with your friends and have fun, but a break-up can leave you in a vulnerable state. You might make decisions that have lasting impacts on your mental health. You could later regret engaging in activities to avoid the pain of traumatic stress instead of facing it gently.
Moreover, you will not give yourself the opportunity to reflect, assess, and heal from this relationship that just ended unless you make time for taking care of your mental health.
Realize What You Already Have
At the beginning of break-ups, it is often difficult to look beyond the present (which may feel bleak) due to overwhelming feelings of loss and heartache. Because of this, your tunnel vision may only allow you to see the negativity of your situation.
Instead of focusing on the breakup, redirect your energy to appreciating what you have.
You can be thankful for something small. It could be that you are grateful for a good friend, or maybe you appreciate a quality that you have to bring to others. Joining support groups for people with social anxiety or those dealing with traumatic stress can help.
Sometimes, when you're going through a breakup you can give your mental health a boost and distract yourself by doing something kind for a family member, friend, loved one, or yourself. You matter, and doing something kind for yourself is going to lift your mood and give your mental health a much-needed boost.
You have an entire life ahead of you and there are many things to explore that will make you happy.
Compile a list of things you're grateful for. Writing a gratitude list has been proven to boost your physical well-being and the state of your mental health.
A gratitude list does not have to be filled with unusual or unique things. In fact, some of the best things to be grateful for could be right in front of you, everyday things. You might be grateful to enjoy engaging in activities like a warm day of sunshine, getting to sleep an hour late, or enjoying a delicious chocolate chip cookie. Taking time for yourself will help to improve your mood and mental health over time.
Following a breakup, it can be comforting to entertain the idea of getting back together with your ex-partner. But, this is likely counterproductive to your efforts to move on.
Remember the red flags you missed that led you here.
It is difficult to move forward when you are clinging to the past. It's important to keep in mind that the relationship ended for a reason, and going back is not likely to result in the happy ending you seek.
Clinging to the past and speculating about the future without acknowledging what is actually happening can be detrimental to your mental health.
If you suffer from chronic mental health issues like having an anxiety disorder, the traumatic stress of a breakup may feel overwhelming or debilitating for you. The best thing to do at this time is to get professional support for dealing with your mental health concerns to prevent traumatic stress and an anxiety disorder from taking over.
The important thing to note -- is that it isn't impossible that you will be reunited with your ex. But for this to be healthy, you both need time alone to digest and explore what went wrong and what you want to be different upon getting back together.
This is especially true if you or your partner is suffering from the symptoms of chronic mental health like social anxiety or another anxiety disorder.
Taking part in therapy or breakup support groups can help you heal. When people think of support groups for mental health, they typically think of support groups for people with eating disorders, social anxiety, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other groups that teach people how to cope with the effects of traumatic stress.
Try to Keep Balance
It is important that you keep a balanced perspective of your relationship to prevent the aggravation of (or development of) traumatic stress that can come from an anxiety disorder. It is easy to remember all the good times and worry you will never have that again. People who suffer from anxiety disorder often focus on only the negative aspects of breaking up. But, with every relationship, there are good times and bad times.
In hindsight, especially when suffering from post-breakup anxiety, we tend to see things more favorably (with rose-colored glasses) than the actual reality of the situation. Staying in this state long-term isn't good for our mental health. We have to learn to accept the good times as memories, not a sign that you will get back together.
You do not need to make out your ex to be a terrible person to be able to get over them, you just need to allow yourself to remember what it was about the relationship that made it ultimately come to an end.
How BetterHelp Can Support You
Maybe you're exhausted from the emotional turmoil of the breakup or the breakup is aggravating an existing anxiety disorder.
The effects of an anxiety disorder at this time can be hard to deal with. You're having trouble getting out to see your friends. You don't want to get out of your pajamas. It's brutal to leave the house and go to work. “Breakup Anxiety” isn’t an officially recognized mental health condition, but it can sure feel like one.
If you're suffering from an anxiety disorder -- or dealing with mental health challenges after a breakup -- there is hope out there. It's called online counseling.
The counselors and staff at BetterHelp care about your pain. We want to help you get through the confusion and pain of dealing with a breakup and living with social anxiety can cause. BetterHelp board-certified and licensed therapist can help you transition and find a way to improved mental health.
You might not be able to see the light at the end of the breakup tunnel, but your counselor can. Trust the skilled mental health professionals - they are here to help you. They want you to heal from this experience. And you can, with the help of a mental health therapist who understands how hard it is when a relationship ends.
The counselors at BetterHelp have seen many people in the United States that suffer from negative symptoms of mental health and social anxiety. When people visit BetterHelp therapy experts for chronic mental health issues and social anxiety, the professional counselors can guide you through these tough times.
You can be sure that your online counselor will take great care of you and help you heal. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors in the United States, from people experiencing similar issues.
"Jessica is an amazing counselor! She helped me get through a difficult breakup and coached me to add structure and balance to my daily routine and my life. She's a great listener and gave me achievable steps to follow to reach the new goals I set for myself. I would definitely recommend her to anyone seeking counseling."
"Pamela has helped me become the person who I wanted to be after my breakup. She helped me see the light in the dark, and showed me that who I am is enough."
FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can a breakup cause panic attacks?
It's emotionally taxing to deal with a breakup. You may experience a variety of feelings during this time, including depression, anxiety, anger, grief, and more. Having anxiety after a breakup is natural – call it “breakup anxiety”.
You may not know what to do and feel lost. Your anxious feelings could be so severe that they develop into panic attacks. You're used to seeing your partner every day, and suddenly they're no longer around. That is a jarring feeling, and you might panic in response.
You could feel anxious because you have abandonment issues, or because you have a strong attachment to routine and are uncomfortable with change. Maybe having someone leave you is triggering, which causes you to feel panic.
If you're having these kinds of attacks, it's crucial to seek the help of a mental health professional to get to the bottom of your feelings. Breakup anxiety is normal, but if it's causing you difficulty functioning, don't hesitate to reach out to someone who cares and can support you through it, like a therapist or counselor.
Why do I feel physically sick after a breakup?
You might feel the emotions after a breakup in your body. If you're experiencing high levels of anxiety, which happens during heartbreak, your body is working hard, and that can be tough on your immune system. Also, we tend to feel emotions in the stomach.
It's no wonder that you feel physically ill after a breakup. Breakups can push your body into a fight or flight mode, increasing cortisol and adrenaline in the system. With these hormones racing through your system, the body feels taxed, and it could cause you to get physically sick.
Typically, the sickness doesn't last forever. But if you find that you're having trouble recovering, it's imperative to see a medical professional and get help for your ailments. Breakups can lower your immune system response, and that can warrant medical attention.
Can heartbreak give you anxiety?
Heartbreak is a painful feeling. You might be convinced that it will never end. Because of that, it causes anxiety and distress. You're worried that you'll be in pain for an indefinite amount of time. You could also be anxious about what your ex is up to, and if they miss you.
There are so many thoughts swimming around in your mind after a breakup. It's natural to feel anxious or overwhelmed after you lose a relationship. Try to be patient with yourself, and know that feeling anxiety is part of the process.
You might consider writing in a journal or talking out your feelings with your friends and loved ones. There is no wrong way to feel, and it can help to process that anxiety by getting it out on paper.
How do you stay calm after a breakup?
Staying calm after a breakup isn't easy; however, it is possible. Don't be hard on yourself if you're feeling anxious. It is natural to have anxiety, but rather than fight it, let yourself feel your feelings.
It might help you to take a walk when you're feeling anxious or do something that provides you with a cathartic release. Maybe you like to act, write, or draw. Perhaps it helps you to sing out your feelings in the shower. Whatever lets you release your emotions, do that.
Also, meditation is a great way to channel your energy, let your thoughts be there, and practice grounding exercises. The most important thing to remember during a breakup is that all your feelings are valid. Anxiety can come from trying to control things that you can't. Allow yourself to experience them thoroughly so you can process them.
How do you break up with someone with anxiety?
It's not easy to break up with anyone, let alone someone who struggles with anxiety.
One thing you can do is communicate to the person what they can expect. Please don't give them false hope that you will get back together. A breakup is hard, but for someone with anxiety, it can feel like torture.
One reason it's particularly difficult is that those who have anxiety tend to overthink matters. It's essential to be clear, give your reasons for breaking up, and keep the conversation to a minimum. Don't go on for hours explaining why you don't want to be together anymore. That's going to make the situation much worse than it already feels.
You're not responsible for someone else's feelings. You can be empathetic towards the person, but you don't have to fix their pain. People with anxiety will worry about what they did wrong, but you don't have to keep reassuring the person. If you don't want to be with them, you have a right to those feelings.
What happens to your brain when you go through a breakup?
Love is like a drug. When you're in love, you get an influx of dopamine and oxytocin. These love hormones make us feel good. When you break up with someone, you are losing that supply of feel-good hormones to the brain, and that feels bad.
You will crave those feelings that your ex used to give you, which is why people have a hard time letting go. It feels great to be wanted, and that's why people search for love and long-term relationships. When love is absent, there's also a change in brain chemistry, which can cause people pain.
How Do I Stop overthinking after a breakup?
Unfortunately, you can't change your thoughts. But you can modify your reactions to them.
When you start to overthink or worry about the breakup, let yourself have the thoughts. Observe them, and don't judge them. People think all kinds of things after a breakup. You're allowed to be in pain, feeling anxious, angry, or sad. It's one thing to process your thoughts and feelings and another to ruminate on them.
If you notice that you're always thinking about your breakup, it may be time to seek the help of a therapist. There are deep feelings that you want to work through, and therapy can help.
How Long Does Anxiety After a Breakup Last?
Recovering from post-breakup anxiety can be a long process, but it can be sped up by seeking professional advice from an online counselor. Follow the above tips and you can start to feel better as well.
Longing for rekindling your relationship will drag out the recovery process, so don't fall into this trap. There is no set time for a person to get back to a healthy state of mind after a breakup, so don't pressure yourself into feeling like you "should have moved on by now." There is no "should" that will help you during this process.
There may be a slight tinge of heartache whenever you think of your ex-partner, and this is an entirely normal feeling. If you allow them to, the feelings will gradually cease over time, and you will move onward and heal.
If you decide that you want to seek counseling, BetterHelp is an online platform where you can be matched with a counselor and start working right away, anywhere you have an internet connection.
Getting registered for your free therapy account on the BetterHelp platform requires that you provide minimal personal information. You can register on the BetterHelp therapy platform using your real name or anonymously.
Your counselor can help you process and explore the reasons the relationship did not work and help you figure out the best plan to move forward.
Breakups are hard. You don't have to suffer alone. Online counseling can be especially helpful when dealing with a breakup because you can take your time sending messages and thus processing the relationship and why it ended. You can gain new insights by doing this. Lasting and fulfilling relationships are possible with the right tools. Take the first step today.