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Lost Love

Valentine’s Day is over and so, perhaps, is your relationship. Breakups can be a huge loss, with grief appropriate to a death; in a way it is a death, the end of the shared hopes and dreams, a home and identity as a couple. Expect to go through stages of sadness, anger, bargaining, etc. until reaching acceptance.

There are no shortage of resources online to help you deal with a breakup. One fun article is from biker pundit Ed Moyer:

You have got to get up out of that bean bag chair, put down the bag of Cheetos, roll the kegs of beer back to the liquor store, stumble into the shower and actually use soap, shampoo, conditioner (if you have enough hair) and unless you want to do your own impersonation of Grizzly Adams, shave.

A wise woman once told me, “There’s no pill for a broken heart.” But there are supports, and if the broken heart worsens into a mental illness there are more options.

While most people hurt and move on without major complications, if you’re predisposed then a breakup can be a crisis big enough to trigger clinical depression, a bipolar episode, worsening OCD and anxiety symptoms, addiction, and even the emergence of Borderline Personality Disorder. How can you tell what is normal breakup grief and what has become pathological? You can take some online quizzes and such but ultimately they will point you towards consulting a therapist or psychiatrist to help you with a diagnosis and treatment plan (if needed).

Here’s a good article from Caremark Health Resources on the differences between breakup grief and full-blown depression, and details some things you can do to help yourself heal.

Certainly, the pain associated with losing a loved one is not confined to married couples. Some studies indicate that as many as one out of five teen-agers suffers depression because of a romantic breakup. Teenagers who’ve gone through a romantic breakup, in fact, are more likely to experience the onset of a major depression while still in adolescence, according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1999. If the phrase “love is a drug” has any basis in fact, its sudden loss can be likened to going through drug withdrawal, and often involves the same harrowing set of symptoms: real physical pain, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, loss of motivation, and thoughts of suicide. If you have constant thoughts of suicide, it’s important that you talk to a doctor or call a crisis line immediately.

A little humor can also soothe broken spirits (but not suicidal thoughts! See a professional…). Breakup News is one funny site. Their description:

Hate married people? Tired of engagement news? Still want to sleep with your ex but don’t know if he/she is in a new relationship? Breakup News is the place to get the announcements that really matter. Get the skinny on recently ruptured romances. Announce to the world that you’re back, and looking for nub in all the wrong places. Spend a few minutes away from porn sites. For consideration, please submit your break up news (click on the heart above). It needn’t be witty, as long as it’s true, and really, really painful.

Of course, don’t forget country music, plus that bit of folk wisdom: “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone.”

Finally, a look at the brain science behind romantic rejection suggests two stages, first trying to win the lover back, and then on to despair/grief and in some cases depression, which can even result in heart attack and stroke. Literally dying of a broken heart. Read Dumped! by Helen Fisher.

Lost Love

Sandra Kiume

Sandra Kiume is a mental health advocate. Along with contributing to World of Psychology, she blogs at Channel N about brain and behaviour videos, and is the founder of @unsuicide and Online Suicide Help. She lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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APA Reference
Kiume, S. (2018). Lost Love. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 16 Feb 2007)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.