Sadness And Anxiety After Breakup

Updated June 16, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

You and your partner have split – now you can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you don’t laugh, you feel upset when other people seem happy around you. Even if the breakup was your decision, the adjustment takes its toll when a relationship ends. A breakup can transform a person who is typically very happy with stable mental health into a depressed, anxious shell of their former selves. If you have an anxiety disorder, a substance abuse issue, or social anxiety, it can be even more difficult to stabilize mental health during this time.

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This isn’t uncommon even in a healthy split, and it likely isn’t the first time it’s happened to you and, unfortunately, may not be the last. So what are some ways to cope with the anxiety after a breakup? We have our coping mechanisms for those of us who have been here before, but even then, we acknowledge the difficulty – that’s why we go into auto-pilot.

Risks For Increased Struggle After a Breakup

If you know you already have any of the following mental health issues, take preventive measures immediately to prevent spiraling into anxiety after a breakup.

  • Substance abuse – Substance abuse is a common crutch in these times, and if you already struggle with it or with mental health, substance abuse may trigger deeper emotional turmoil. It’s best to put measures into place to avoid potential substance abuse immediately. This will keep your mental health from plummeting out of control.
  • Chronic depression – If you have depression already, even good times can leave you feeling like you don’t have much to feel happy about. A breakup can trigger a full mental health crisis with traumatic stress.
  • Social anxiety – Are you introverted to an extreme and have social anxiety? If engaging in activities outside of your house, seek emotional support by having a good friend or loved ones accompany you. Giving in to your social anxiety can lead to isolation, making all your efforts to move on more difficult as you succumb to poor mental health. Be especially careful about substance abuse if trying to conquer social anxiety by going out with friends. Your anxiety may trigger substance abuse.
  • Anxiety disorder – Having an anxiety disorder is like taking social anxiety and amplifying it to almost any given situation. This is the most common mental health disorder in the United States and affects more than 18% of the population, but only about a third receive treatment. If you’re prone to panic attacks, you may already be aware that you’re going to need to employ coping mechanisms for your mental health to get through your grief as quickly as possible.
  • Eating disorders – The stress of a breakup causes most of us to go through a period of disordered eating; whether we eat more or less depends on the stage of mourning we are in and individual circumstances. But people with eating disorders may experience that to a level of excess. If you find your eating disorder is slipping, you can use health services to intervene with nutrition programs while you seek mental health support as well.
  • Personality disorder – People with personality disorders struggle to adapt to change, so a breakup can easily cause a mental health crisis. The best way to deal with a breakup is to immediately employ coping techniques and seek mental health services. They can reduce risk by engaging in activities that are healthy but provide a distraction.

Signs You’re Struggling After a Breakup

Feeling sad is normal, but how do you know when it’s too much and need intervention? Look for the following red flags:

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  • Social isolation – It’s fine to give yourself a day to yourself and immerse yourself in your feelings; that’s actually good for your mental health. But if you’ve spent a few days indoors, your social anxiety and possible depression are growing beyond healthy limits. A social anxiety disorder is exacerbated by not going out.
  • Panic attacks – your anxiety after a breakup is accelerating if you find yourself having panic attacks. Your mental health issues may be about to spiral, and it’s a good time to seek intervention by making an appointment for mental health services. If you’re struggling with leaving the house, don’t prolong seeking help for your mental health – you can seek an online therapist.
  • Racing thoughts and feelings – This is a sign of a bigger mental health issue, certainly of anxiety or an anxiety disorder.
  • Substance abuse – It’s already been addressed, and you’re well aware that substance abuse is an issue if it’s something that has been a problem for you and your mental health before. But if during this period you notice for the first time that you may be developing substance abuse, remove yourself from those situations or remove the substances from your home to preserve your mental health.

Embrace Your Support Network

Where can you turn to for support? Your mental health in this time of traumatic stress is extremely important. Seek out a good friend or a close family member such as a sibling to initially confide in and spend time, and as you adjust over a few days, increase your circle to more close friends as your social anxiety gets better. If you’re struggling to see other people, then honor the limits of your anxiety disorder during your anxiety after a breakup and start seeing more people little by little. This will help stabilize your mental health.

Try to avoid drinking and other substances as you process, as substance abuse is a common crutch in these times. If you already struggle with substance abuse, this may spiral you into deeper emotional turmoil. Please do not feel ashamed of your substance abuse history. Almost 10% of people in the United States have overcome substance abuse, and more than half did it with assisted recovery, such as support groups, health services, and mental health services.

Now is the time to increase your use of mental health services. Make an appointment with your online therapist, or you can find a therapist if you don’t have one already. It’s a good time to seek support groups. Joining support groups helps you find others who understand what you’re going through during your breakup and mental health struggle but can also take your mind off of your anxiety as you go through the healing process with those in your support groups. You can slow the growth of your anxiety disorder by treating your mental health.

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Ten Tips For Coping With Anxiety After A Breakup

  1. Evaluate your relationship goals. Here’s a great way to deal with a breakup – identify how this relationship was not what you wanted. Did your partner leave you with feelings of rejection? Feeling like you were in a midlife crisis and the relationship was a bad idea in the first place? Did they have substance abuse or their own mental health problems that they left untreated? The good times were few and far between? Have you always struggled with social anxiety, substance abuse, or mental health issues, and they were unsupportive? An important thing to remember in this process is how this relationship fell short and reevaluated your relationship goals. Establish your terms and conditions for the next relationship, and it will go better.
  2. Use this time to better yourself. Have you heard the expression “living well is the best revenge”? It’s true – and the best news of all is that when you’re living well, you won’t even care about revenge. Good times are ahead, and they come from good care and stable mental health. New insights will come from this time as you seek mental health services, improve your physical health through health services, and occupy your time engaging in activities focused on wellness, mental health, and self-improvement. If your social anxiety and mental health are getting the better of you, there are ways to do this online.
  3. Learn a new skill. Do you feel like everywhere you turn, you’re reminded of your ex? Learn something new that you won’t associate with them. Learn Italian (unless your ex is Italian!), take a dance or pottery class, practice yoga and mindfulness to help your mental health. Choose an activity you have to commit to for some period of time, so it becomes a habit, and during that time, you won’t be thinking about your former partner and triggering a mental health crisis every time.
  4. Remember everything that was wrong with the relationship. It wasn’t all good times – we forget that in the traumatic stress of a breakup. Don’t look at it through rose-colored glasses; your relationship lasted as long as you were both willing to work on it or until one could no longer carry the other. Your mental health is not worth pretending the romantic relationship was better than it actually was.
  5. Avoid substance abuse. It’s not uncommon to use alcohol and other substances to numb pain or relax you when you’re going through a rough time, and your mental health is struggling. Unfortunately, the more you use them, the more they will actually depress you while creating a dependency. Substance abuse will only make it more difficult to move on.
  6. Go on adventures. Discover new places where you are but if you’re able, book a once-in-a-lifetime experience as well. The more memories you have that don’t include your ex, the further they will be behind you. If you can only stay in town during this period, go out as often as possible, enjoy your friends, and meet new people. Nothing can be better for your mental health than getting outside of your personal bubble and discovering new things. Minimize substance use, especially if it has been a problem in the past for you. People with substance abuse histories may be fragile if surrounded by others using those or other substances.
  7. Get a massage. This sounds a little strange, but there’s some science behind this. The body misses touch after a breakup, and that contributes to anxiety after a breakup. Reiki massage can actually help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorder and mental health. Ease your mental health symptoms by booking a massage!
  8. Occupy your time. If you’re still struggling to ease your racing thoughts, look into a volunteer opportunity or a part-time job. If you want to learn something new and you aren’t exactly this free, of all jobs, internships have the most limited hours and can provide you with new skills. A volunteer opportunity, in particular, will give you a sense of meaning and improve your mental health.
  9. Look into online therapy. Especially if you have social anxiety or some other anxiety disorder, therapy is a difficult step, but this is a good start. The beauty of online therapy is that you can start immediately, unlike in an office setting that may be scheduled out for days or weeks while you are in crisis. These mental health services may be covered by insurance if the provider is within the United States or your country of residence. Still, most importantly, while you’re in the midst of traumatic stress, you can start immediately – sign up with an email address and minimal personal information, read the privacy policy and terms and conditions. You can choose your therapist that quickly. You may even be able to find support groups online. You can also look into telemedicine if your social anxiety is still difficult to manage and you need health services as well.
  10. Read this! In a previous article, ReGain gives great tips for how to move on.
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Breakups are inevitable in life, and anxiety after a breakup is not an uncommon emotional state. Surrounding yourself with good care and people who love you, you can get through the adjustment period. If you have mental health issues or a history of substance abuse, you may have a more challenging time getting through your anxiety after a breakup. Still, with mental health services and your own dedication with time, you will get through it, moving on to bigger and better things.


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