And by real depression, I mean how it sounds: the actual, clinical type.
“One of the symptoms we associate with depression is a feeling of helplessness, and especially if the other person broke up with you, that can make you feel extremely vulnerable and lost,” says WH advisor "Dr. Chloe" Carmichael, PhD, a relationship therapist in New York City and author of Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating.
Trust that the feeling won’t last forever, but getting over someone isn’t as simple as just letting time heal your wounds.
“Mourning is different for everyone, but I would expect it to be really hard for at least 90 days following a breakup,” says Dr. Chloe.
Then “during that period and after, depression can become cyclical: Maybe you start dating again and you have a few weeks of fun, but then you miss the stability of being with that one person, or their birthday rolls around and you’re reminded of them and you feel sad again. That can go on for years.” Oof.
That means it's best to nip depression in the bud as early and as quickly as you can—which isn't, might I add, the same as not letting yourself feel the full weight of your emotions. You just need to not let the sad, dark ones get the best of you day after day.
Easier said than done, right? Well, not anymore. These breakup-depression coping tips will fast-forward the grieving process and help you walk away from your split feeling like a better, hotter, stronger version of yourself:
1. Stay committed to the real reasons the relationship ended.
Every time your former boyfriend or girlfriend pops back into your head, you have an opportunity to control the mental conversation that comes next.
Instead of taking your thoughts of longing or missing them as a sign that the breakup wasn't the right decision, trust that it's totally normal and okay to still have feelings for someone who isn't the right person for you. Focus on that latter bit as much as possible—that they're still not the right person for you.
2. Delete your ex on all social media.
Once someone is out of your physical life, it’s time to get them out of your digital life, too.
“When you continue to look at someone on social media after a breakup, you’re investing in someone who’s not invested in you,” says Dr. Chloe. “It reminds you of their presence. Instead of ripping off the bandage, you're fixating on them visually, which is like slowly peeling it off and then repasting it and peeling it again and again.” (I mean, what a perfect analogy...)
Like eating junk food when you’re hungry, checking up on your ex might give you a little relief in the moment, but it only digs you deeper into feeling dependent on them.
Delete/unfollow/block and never look back. You got this, girl.
3. Book yourself a massage.
When you end a relationship, there’s a sudden drop-off in physical touch. And skin-to-skin contact decreases the stress hormone cortisol and boosts the feel-good hormone dopamine, says Dr. Chloe. So without it, you lose a lot of those smiley feelings.
Touch makes you feel wanted, valued, loved, and safe—not to mention, part of (or sometimes, all of) what you might be missing about your ex is simply physical intimacy.
“It can feel like psychological withdrawal,” Dr. Chloe says. “I always recommend clients get a massage from someone who is the same sex as your ex. You might be craving some compassionate male touch, and a massage can check that primal box. It’s okay to miss being touched and held, but it doesn’t have to be with that one person.”
4. Talk to a therapist.
Post-breakup, there’s usually a lot to unpack emotionally, and a therapist can help you process what you’re feeling so you can properly move forward.
“When someone breaks up with you, it can kick off a series of critical negative thoughts about yourself,” says Dr. Chloe. “You might be wondering what you did to turn them off or push them away, or why you weren’t good enough for them. But really, they just weren’t interested in the same things as you long-term, and it doesn’t have anything to do with your intrinsic self.”
That’s not to say you couldn’t have done anything differently, though, and acknowledging that is actually a good thing! Recognising that you tend to go for people who want something casual while you want something serious, or that you present yourself as someone who’s okay with treatment that you’re really not, can help you change those patterns.
“It’s really hard to look at yourself and realize what you did wrong in the relationship, but when you do, you can start to change your process and get more of what you’re really looking for.” And that feels good. Like, sooo good.
5. Take on a new hobby.
A breakup can take a serious toll on your confidence, but the problem of self-image goes deeper than that: If you were in a long-term—and/or a codependent relationship—you might experience a bit of an identity crisis when you're suddenly solo.
One ace way to drown yourself in self-love and pride? Pursue a new passion—and put in the time and effort to get really good at it.
Having a hobby won't just make you feel better, it'll also give you something else to do besides think about your breakup. "Willpower only goes so far," says Dr. Chloe. "It's really helpful to be doing something instead of just fighting the urge to reach out to your ex."
6. Date, date, date.
It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but it's hugely important.
For one, post-breakup depression can intensify significantly if you feel like you're stuck in a destructive pattern (of, say, always pursuing guys who are emotionally unavailable), because you'll likely develop a "dating sucks!" mentality. (Sound familiar?)
“You might feel like dating anyone will land you in the same place again, so you start to isolate and give up because it feels like you’re banging your head against the wall,” explains Dr. Chloe. But get out there and start dating—like, multiple people at once—and you'll find some fun it, too.
And more than that, spending time with other potential romantic partners is a great way to stop fixating on your ex, says Dr. Chloe.
“When we focus on one person, we start to believe that they must be really special, or why would you bend over backwards for them,” she explains. Dating does the opposite.
“You start to think, ‘If I’m dating other people, it’s because I must believe there are other people out there for me.’ Remember, every other single person has not met the right person yet, either.”