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  • Writer's pictureTonya

Depression After a Breakup - Why Does it Happen?

Updated: Feb 5

Depression After a Breakup is normal and there is a scientific reason for why you feel the way you do

Experiencing a devastating breakup will no doubt induce varying, intense emotions that will make you feel as though your heart is aching from the pain of losing your partner. Depression is one of the major cluster of breakup symptoms that many women have identified shortly after a breakup which researcher of Evolutionary Studies Dr. CE. Morris has coined it as Post Relationship Grief (PRG).

Furthermore, Clinical Professor and Neuroscientist Dr. Lucy Brown studies why breakups affect humans the way that it does and has found that breakups "can induce clinical depression". Brown proves her findings by utilizing Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI); which is the measurement of our neural systems (the brain) and how it reacts to loss, such as a devastating breakup.

The results, thus far, have been quite insightful and eye-opening. Brown has concluded (keep in mind this is an ongoing area of research for her) that based upon her initial findings of 10 women and 5 men who were rejected by their ex, identified as still having intense feelings of love for the partner who rejected them.

Brown's study further acknowledged that "participants alternately viewed a photograph of their rejecting beloved and a photograph of a familiar, individual, interspersed with a distraction-attention task. Their responses while looking at their rejecter included love, despair, good, and bad memories, and wondering why this happened".

As I delved deeper into the above research and articles what is quite apparent is that your emotional and physical state are both negatively activated or triggered when you are experiencing a devastating breakup. Your intense desire and longing to be back together with your ex is a direct trigger reaction of the various hormones that are responsible for regulating your emotional and physical state.

What the Scientific Facts Have Shown

When we describe our heart aching after being rejected by our ex-partners it is our brain that is communicating to us this breakup hurts, similar to when we hurt our arm, or cut our fingers. The brain interprets our pain after a breakup the same way it interprets pain when we are physically hurt. This has been proven by research, such as Brown's fMRI.

What's contributing to our initial depression after a breakup?

We are experiencing addiction to our ex-partner's love, and the symptoms of withdrawal we experience once that love has been abruptly removed from our life. Why does this happen? Brown and other notable scientists have identified five hormones and areas of the brain that contribute to our reactions when experiencing a devastating breakup.

  • Dopamine: When you crave and need to have this person back in your life, even though they have rejected you and ended the relationship, is a form of love addiction that is also experienced by cocaine addicts. Hence, why when you see a photo of your ex online, or receive a text message from or about your ex, you are triggered into the heightened phase of loving and needing your ex back in your life. As a result, you are constantly looped back into the toxic cycle of adoring and missing, then hating and wanting nothing to do with your ex from moment to the next.

  • The Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA): is located at the midway area of the brain and is responsible for the release of Dopamine, and also plays a role in our brain's reward system. Regarding love and heartbreak, we will temporarily lose our ability to emotionally self-regulate; hence, the roller-coaster of emotions many women and men experience when they have experienced a devastating breakup.

  • Reduction in Serotonin: Lower levels of Serotonin are also experienced during a devastating breakup. When this happens, our behavior becomes more erratic, compulsive, and obsessive. This will usually manifest in the form of secretly stalking your ex online, texting them repeatedly even though they have made it clear to you that the relationship is over, and obsessively asking why he breakup with me?

  • Triggered Insular Cortex: This area of the brain is responsible for the distress and pain we feel after being rejected by our intimate partner. The Insular Cortex will be heightened at the time of a devastating breakup because our source of comfort, assumed safe place and romantic love has been cut off. As such, we feel the pain and distress the same way we feel when we are physically hurt.

  • The Right Anterior Cingulate: Plays a major role in our cravings, much like cocaine addicts who crave having just one last hit. Similarly, when experiencing a devastating breakup, we crave and desire attention and affection from our ex-partner to the point we start to obsess over figuring out how to get our ex back into our lives.

All of the above, also, your past proclivity for experiencing depression in your life will contribute to the heightened feelings of anxiety and depression you are feeling amid a devastating breakup. What you must understand is that to emotionally regulate post-breakup one must understand, firstly, why having a strategic plan of enforcing no contact is extremely important.

Why No Contact is Important

Having a strategic plan in place to enforce no contact with your ex-partner is not about the silent treatment; and I speak at length about the mental, spiritual, emotional and physical preparation that goes into confidently enforcing your no contact rule with success in my 5-Part Audio Course - No Contact, No Joke!

You must give yourself time to detox from this person and the relationship, so that you can clearly and logically decide, for yourself, what your next steps will be moving forward. It's important for you to get a perspective on your role within this relationship and yes, breakup. But the only way to do that is to give yourself space, time and incredible patience with your healing and recovery journey post-breakup.

Depression after a breakup is normal

There is nothing wrong with what and how you are feeling right now. In part two of this article I will discuss a few wellness practices and advice you can personally experiment with to help you activate your healing, recovery and transformation journey moving forward post-breakup.

Stay strong, gorgeous, you got this!


National Library of Medicine



I hope you enjoyed this week's article and have gained some valuable information to help you move forward with confidence! As a Breakup and Wellness Coach, my work in this world is dedicated to supporting and helping women such as yourself to HEAL, RECLAIM and TRANSFORM your life after leaving a toxic relationship. Do reach out if you would like to discuss how I can support you on your journey of recovery, healing, and transformation.


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