10 Signs Your Post-Breakup Sadness Is Cause For Concern

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

According to Charlotte from "Sex and the City," it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them. But, using HBO for all your medical questions may be even worse than using the WebMD Symptom checker to diagnose yourself with a serious health condition.

While it's natural to go through a grieving process and feel extremely upset, it's important to ask yourself at what point have you gone from being sad to being depressed. What exactly causes depression after a breakup, and how exactly do we distinguish crying while watching "The Notebook" from crying as a symptom of something far more serious? A lot of that depends on other stressful events that may be going on in their life at the time, like the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. Marisa Cohen, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and co-founder of the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab told InStyle, "An individual's personality is affected by the interaction between their thoughts, behaviors, and the surrounding environment." Basically, if someone breaks up with you after the death of your grandmother, it's going to hit a lot harder.

Many symptoms of depression are similar to post-breakup blues, so when should you be worried? It's widely believed by experts that if certain symptoms, like appetite changes or fatigue last longer than a few weeks, it may be depression.

You've gotten stuck somewhere in the grieving process and haven't come out of it

Many people are familiar with the five stages of grief: denial and shock, intense sadness, anger, bargaining, and finally acceptance. While experts have concluded that grief often isn't linear, and many people don't even experience every single stage, someone suffering from depression will continue spiraling downward whereas for others, their sadness starts to subside with time. 

Niloo Dardashti, Ph.D., a New York-based couples psychologist told SELF she disagrees with the idea that there are specific stages of grief, saying, "It depends on how invested you were in the relationship." She added, "It's a very different case for someone who's been on a few dates and shared a few sleepovers versus a breakup where someone has been blindsided after several years."

If you've done all the normal breakup rituals, i.e. cried to your friends at Bennigan's and binge-watched "Gilmore Girls" for the third time, and things are finally starting to look up after a couple of weeks, you'll most likely be fine. But if you continue spiraling into your feelings of grief, it could spell depression. If that's the case, try taking a mental health day. Step away from work and do something good for your soul, whether it's taking a walk in nature, or going out to lunch and reading that book that's been gathering dust on the shelf. 

You're too tired to do literally anything, even things you once enjoyed

If your partner just broke up with you, especially if it was over Whatsapp or even worse, Facebook Messenger, it's likely you'll be stuck under your duvet for a while. That post-breakup, low-energy, morose feeling where you think you'll never feel happy again and the world is a cold, dark place with nothing but phone bills will eventually pass. However, fatigue may set in that could spell depression if you don't pay close attention. The UPMC Health Beat claims excessive fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of depression. But it's not just the normal, Monday morning "but first coffee" kind of feeling.

Alex Dimitriu, M.D., psychiatrist and sleep medicine expert, told INSIDER there are a couple of distinguishing factors between regular fatigue and depression, and it all comes down to your desire to do activities that you love. He claimed normal fatigue is wanting to do things but lacking the energy, while depression is having little to no interest in doing things at all. This can make a person feel too exhausted to perform even basic tasks, like grooming or cleaning.

To counteract the low-energy feeling that comes with fatigue, it's important to get your body moving. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise releases feel-good endorphins that allow us to feel good, which may alleviate depression symptoms. That means it may be worth to throw on those old Nike sneakers and go for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, even if it's just for a few minutes.

You're experiencing drastic appetite changes

Although pop culture has long depicted binge-eating massive amounts of junk food after a breakup for weeks on end as normal, this behavior can signal something more serious in real life. 

"When [people] eat in response to their emotions, they are soothed by the food as it changes the chemical balance in the brain, produces a feeling of fullness that is more comfortable than an empty stomach, and improves mood through positive association with happier times," Debra J. Johnston, RD, culinary services manager at Remuda Ranch, an eating disorder treatment center told Everyday Health.

Others find it difficult to eat at all due to the body going into "fight" mode. Gert ter Horst, Professor of neurobiology and Director of the Neuroimaging Center at the University Hospital in Groningen, Netherlands told VICE your body goes into survival mode after a breakup, meaning that eating becomes a secondary concern. Unfortunately, just like overeating, a significant loss of appetite for weeks can be a sign of depression.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

You don't know who you are anymore outside of your former relationship

The longer you're in a relationship with someone, the more likely you are to start adopting their habits, interests, and hobbies. You also may have gotten used to doing everything with your ex, which can make starting anew seem daunting. Perhaps you and your ex had breakfast in bed and read the newspaper together every Sunday morning, and now you don't know what to do with yourself when that day inevitably comes around every week. Or, maybe you and your ex developed a love for Italian cooking after taking a class together and now you're questioning your favorite pasta dish. 

For couples who have been with each other for a long time, a breakup can be especially tough as it takes away their sense of who they thought they were. A 2011 study published in the Personal Relationships Journal found that people who struggled to define themselves as individuals experienced more distress after a breakup. But while it's totally normal to miss having that person around, feeling completely lost about your identity and having no interest in a life of your own could be a sign you're headed for or nearing a depression.

When a breakup occurs, it's important to start thinking of yourself as an individual again and figuring out what you like and who you are, separate from everyone else. Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed., even recommends a solo trip, telling Glamour, "Once you are feeling optimistic, it's a great idea to book an adventure." Ask yourself, "What hobbies do I enjoy? What things have I never had time to do because I was with my partner?"

Keeping tabs on your ex is affecting your daily life

We're all familiar with the urge to immediately block an ex on every social media platform we can think of, usually out of anger and revenge. But, after a few days, or even hours, the desire to check up on them and see what they're doing, who they're with, and how they're feeling takes over. Stalking an ex online is pretty common post-breakup, at least according to research. In a study from The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 276 Canadians between 18-25 participated in a survey after going through a breakup in the last year, with almost 90% claiming they engaged in post-relationship online tracking.

Although there's nothing wrong with coming across an ex's Facebook post every once in a while, looking at an ex's Instagram photos for hours on end can quickly become unhealthy. "This unhealthy process does not allow you to let go, grieve, and mourn the loss of the actual relationship." Dr. Fran Walfish told Elite Daily.If it's already at the point where it's affecting your daily life, such as causing you to fall behind on projects or making it difficult to focus on work, that could be a sign it's crossed over into obsession. Some experts have linked this behavior to depression and other mental health issues.

Jenev Caddell, psychologist and couples therapist gave The Healthy an explanation for this obsession. She said, "Among people in love, there is increased activity in the region of the brain that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine...After a breakup, this area of your brain ALSO gets activated, so you may be likely to obsess about the person, without any rewards." How to combat this? It's pretty simple: Delete them on every social media platform.

You're in a constant state of fight or flight mode

Have you ever been driving down the street and a biker or a pedestrian all of a sudden crosses in front of you? You immediately hit the brakes and feel that stomach drop as your body responds to the danger of almost hitting someone. Well, that feeling is similar to what some feel after a breakup. Per Healthline, when we're dealing with a tense situation like a heartbreak, it sets off the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, which impact heart rate. This sensation can last for a prolonged period after the initial heartbreak, leaving your body in a panicky, stressed-out state.

Erika Martinez, Psy.D, told The Healthy, "A breakup is perceived as a stressor by the body, and the body doesn't distinguish whether that stressor comes in the form of a broken heart or a lion chasing you...While the stress of a threat posed by a lion is transient, the stress resulting from a breakup lasts longer and can lead to chronic anxiety, and if left unaddressed, into depression." This "fight or flight" mode is a physiological response to an outside threat or danger. 

The difference between stress and anxiety is that stress often comes from a specific trigger, such as losing a job, whereas anxiety doesn't go away even without a stressful trigger. Anxiety symptoms can look like trouble concentrating, physical tension, irritability, and insomnia. Journaling can be an exceptionally healthy coping mechanism which, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, can help you cope with anxiety by helping you prioritize your biggest worries and fears, and helping you identify negative thoughts.

Your watery eyes and shaky voice have lasted longer than a few weeks

Feeling sad is generally seen as par for the course when it comes to breakups and even people standing on a stool at the bar yelling "I'm free! I'm free!" probably feel a few pangs of heartbreak deep down. However, if your sadness has gone way past tears for Jack and Rose, it could signify depression, especially if it's lasting longer than a few weeks. 

Breaking down in tears in the middle of the grocery aisle or while going about your daily business is considered normal right after splitting from someone you love, as is crying yourself to sleep or getting upset during a Hallmark commercial. However, per Healthline, a constant teary-eyed state should begin to dissipate after a few weeks, and if it doesn't, it could mean it's time to seek some help.

According to Guy Winch, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and author of "How To Fix a Broken Heart," acceptance could be key to moving on. He told Good Housekeeping, "There's this fantasy that if you just keep asking, you'll discover something that will allow you to undo what happened and get back together with that person." However, he explained to the publication that many people obsess over closure in a relationship because they want another chance with their ex, even though moving on is the only way to heal.

Your self-worth is nonexistent

Breakups are all different, but one thing is universal: heartbreak hurts. Being rejected by someone we cared about deeply mess can mess with our confidence and leave us feeling like gum stuck to the ground at the bus stop. Lori Gottlieb, M.F.T., psychotherapist and author of "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" told Good Housekeeping, "When somebody rejects us, there's a very primal piece to it, which is that it goes against everything we feel like we need for survival." 

Unfortunately, this can get to a point where we start to blame ourselves for what went wrong in the relationship, leading us to dwell on the past and convince ourselves that we aren't good enough. According to The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center, this kind of low self-esteem can affect more than just your future love life. It also impacts friendships, academic and job performance, and could lead to a risk of drug and alcohol abuse. 

When heartbreak brings up feelings of abandonment and low self-worth, it's important to start building up your self-esteem as soon as possible. "Self Love Workbook for Women," covers a variety of topics like body image and rejection, and is filled with inspiring quotes from Maya Angelou to Brené Brown.

You feel rage bubbling to the surface over pretty minor things

If you're in a state of heartbreak and your feelings are already hanging by a thread, you're probably feeling extra vulnerable and sensitive to rejection. While it's normal to feel some anger toward an ex, especially if they dumped you unexpectedly, it's important to note the difference between being pissed at the circumstances, and genuine anger from depression. According to Priory, someone with depression has a "negativity bias" that leads to consistent irritability and outbursts of anger. This can come out in unpredictable places, such as while driving, or simply after receiving criticism from a friend or family better.

Your thoughts have turned to self harm or suicide

According to a study published in The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, the more committed you were to a relationship, the higher your chance of depression after a breakup, which can lead to dangerous feelings like suicidal ideation. The U.S. National Institute of Health warning signs can include feeling "hopeless" or a lack of will to live.

It's imperative to note there is no shame in having these feelings or admitting to them; the most important thing is that you seek help immediately. Suicide.ca recommends finding help through support services and talking to loved ones. They suggest being wary of who you choose to share this information with; such as someone who can remain calm when emotions are high.

They also recommend having a safety plan in place for when your thoughts turn dark, such as emergency phone numbers to call, and specific coping mechanisms. This could include alerting a loved one to what you're going through and having them remain on standby for when you may need to talk. While feeling despondent after a split is considered entirely common, feeling like you want to harm yourself should be taken seriously as an emergency.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.