So You’ve Been Dumped. Now What? Understanding the A-Z of Common Breakup Symptoms. (The Mental, Emotional, & Physical Effects)
When you go through a break-up, your world can feel disorienting, strange and even downright scary. Not everyone goes through all the mental, emotional and physical twists and turns that I’m about to discuss, but most of us will recognise at least some of them.
My aim with this article is to give you a gentle nudge and say, “Darling, you’re not alone.” What you’re feeling and experiencing is way more common than you might think.
This list springs from my own trials and tribulations with break-ups, as well as the collective wisdom garnered from a 23-page forum thread on the SYBD website. Reading and responding to that thread, many found comfort, realising they’re not ‘freaks’ or abnormal for going through what they’re going through.
A-C Effects of a Breakup
When a relationship comes to an end, it’s perfectly normal to experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. You see, when your body is in a state of emotional trauma, it often responds with heightened physical sensations. Remember, your mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected, so if one area is off-kilter, the others are likely to be affected too.
Aches – Oh, the aches and pains can pop up just about anywhere—your head, stomach, chest; you name it. Some people have even reported aches in their rib cage. We’ll delve into more specific types of discomfort further down.
Acne – Don’t be too surprised if spots or other skin irritations make an appearance. Stress is a common trigger for breakouts, so experiencing them after a break-up is hardly unusual.
Agoraphobia – Now, this one might sound a bit severe, but it’s not unheard of. Some members of the SYBD community found themselves grappling with feelings of agoraphobia, which is essentially a reluctance or fear of leaving the house. If you’re trying to move on and can’t even step out of your front door, that’s going to make the process even more challenging, isn’t it?
Alcohol – Self-medicating is a tactic some folks use to numb their heartache. There’s a good chance you or someone you know might be drinking more than usual. Some even admit to chain-smoking along with it. Oddly enough, there are those who find they drink less after a break-up. Just bear in mind, my loves, that alcohol is a depressant, and it’s probably best to avoid it if you’re already feeling low.
Always on the go – Ah, the constant pacing, the inability to sit still. Some of you are filling up your social calendars just to avoid thinking about the break-up or allowing yourselves proper time to heal. It’s as if keeping busy serves as a shield against facing your feelings, isn’t it?
Anger – Now, anger is a sneaky emotion. What you think you’re fuming about might just be the tip of the iceberg. You could be angry at your ex, a third party, or even yourself. It’s okay to feel the heat, but even better to work through it and let it go.
Anxiousness – Feeling jittery and on edge? You’re far from alone. Anxiety is an unwelcome but common companion on the road to recovery.
Apathy – Sometimes, the energy to care just isn’t there, is it? You might find yourself indifferent about work, family, or even life in general for a while. And that’s okay. The duration of this emotional flatline varies from person to person. More on this under ‘Lethargy and Numbness’ below.
Appetite – Oooh, the ups and downs of appetite. Some people become voracious comfort eaters, while others could barely look at food. It can be a rollercoaster—feasting one moment, fasting the next. Sound familiar? The notorious “break-up diet” is more common than you think.
In turn, you might lose weight, or perhaps gain some. Your tastebuds may stage a little revolt, demanding different flavours or leaving your mouth feeling “pasty.”
BO / Body Odour – You might notice a change in how you smell, love. Due to diet and sleep changes, your body can start giving off a different kind of odour. It’s as if even your body is expressing its discontent, isn’t it?
Chain-smoking – For those who already smoke, you might find yourself puffing away more than usual. And some non-smokers may even start. It’s not the best coping strategy, but let’s be honest, unusual times can lead to unusual habits.
Chest pains – This one is a kicker. The emotional ache can become so palpable that your chest physically hurts. Some people have even mistaken it for a heart attack! Whether it’s a tight feeling, knots, or more acute pains, the sensation is very real. Keep breathing: inhale, exhale.
Cleaning – Ah, cleaning. It’s either your sanctuary or your nemesis after a break-up. I’ve had times when I’ve been a complete slob, and others when scrubbing seemed the only way to clear my mind—or distract it.
Remember that scene in ‘Singles’ where Kyra Sedgwick cleans the toilet with her ex’s t-shirt? Now that’s what I call a cathartic clean!
Crying – Tears will most likely come, darling, and that’s perfectly okay. You may even find you can’t stop the waterworks. Men and women of all ages can experience this. Give yourself permission to let it all out.
As a little heads-up, you may also find that you’re trembling or shaking while you cry. So don’t be surprised if that happens too.
Judith said, “I cried so much for a week, I literally felt my tears dry up. I was still sad but just couldn’t cry anymore.”
D-L Breakup Effects
Dissociation – It’s like you’re floating, isn’t it? You’re physically present but emotionally miles away. It’s a coping mechanism our minds employ when things get too stressful. As one SYBD community member ‘Ouch’ put it: “You’re in the same room with someone else but on a completely different planet.” Feeling trapped or in a hole can be disconcerting, to say the least.
Dizziness and Shaking – Feeling light-headed, my love? Perhaps even experiencing unusual spasms? It’s disorienting to feel sudden waves of dizziness, shaking hands or even full-body spasms. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Hair loss – Yes, you read that correctly. The stress your body is under can even affect your lovely locks. It’s a difficult time, and your body knows it too.
Headaches – Headaches can be a constant nuisance. Whether it’s the stress, lack of sleep, or dehydration, having a throbbing head just adds insult to emotional injury.
Lack of Focus Oh, the ever-wandering mind. Members of our community have reported struggling to focus on even the simplest things. Watching TV, reading a book, or even carrying on a conversation can suddenly seem like insurmountable tasks. Starting tasks only to abandon them halfway is quite common. Lack of concentration seems to be a shared experience.
Lethargy – This links back to apathy, doesn’t it? That sense of “I just can’t be bothered.” Even the simplest tasks like eating, showering or getting dressed can feel like scaling a mountain. It’s as if you’ve run out of fuel.
Libidos – A delicate topic but a real one. You might find that your sexual desire takes a rollercoaster ride. One moment, you’re surprisingly ‘in the mood,’ and the next, even the thought of intimacy could repel you. It’s a whirlwind, but remember, it’s okay to feel this way.
M-Z of Breakup Effects
Mood swings – The emotional rollercoaster, dear heart. One moment you’re laughing, and the next you’re in tears. Your moods might shift so quickly that it feels like emotional whiplash. It’s disorienting, but remember, it’s also very normal.
Nausea, cold sweats & more – Physical symptoms can be as varied as they are unsettling. Nausea, cold sweats, hot flashes, even a constantly runny nose—these can afflict anyone, regardless of gender. Stress truly does play havoc with our bodies, doesn’t it?
Neediness – Feeling clingy, love? You’re not the only one. Many have reported not wanting to spend a single moment alone, almost like they needed to be “babysat.” In extreme cases, this sense of neediness can morph into desperation, leading some to do just about anything to win an ex back.
Numbness – Ah, the numbness. Sometimes the emotional pain becomes too much, and your body and mind sort of ‘shut down.’ You might even feel a physical manifestation of this emotional numbness; some forum members have reported feeling as if their hands or feet have gone cold and numb.
Obsessive or Racing Thoughts – Many find themselves enveloped in a whirlpool of incessant thoughts after a breakup. Whether it’s about your ex, the relationship, or even their new partner, these thoughts can become all-consuming. One former site member, Lola, described them as “recurring, obsessive thoughts” that looped through her mind.
Panic Attacks – the panic attacks—a sadly common experience. Shortness of breath, a pounding heart, and even uncontrollable shaking can all happen, affecting both men and women who are navigating the emotional minefield of a breakup. It’s as if your body is sounding an alarm bell, begging you to take notice.
Sadness – That lingering sense of sadness, like a dark cloud you just can’t shake. It’s almost like it has its own schedule, appearing and disappearing when it pleases, sometimes with no warning at all. In more severe instances, this can spiral into deeper feelings of depression. I remember after a particularly tough breakup, I found myself on a doctor’s waiting list. Thankfully, by the time my appointment came round, I found I no longer needed it.
Skin rashes – When we say breakups get under your skin, we sometimes mean it literally. Stress-triggered conditions like rashes and eczema can pop up anywhere, from your face down to your feet. It’s as if your body is externalising what you’re going through.
Suicidal Thoughts – This is a sensitive one. If you’re grappling with thoughts of suicide, please know that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to go through this by yourself. It’s crucial to speak to a professional and reach out to your support networks. We at SYBD are here to lend an empathetic ear both on the blog and in the forum. Remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a problem that—although it might not feel like it right now—is temporary. People do care about you. We care.
Sleeping – The elusive beauty sleep that seems to vanish just when we need it most. Sleep patterns get turned upside down during a breakup. Some of us suffer from insomnia, waking up at unearthly hours like 4 a.m., unable to drift back to sleep. Others experience nightmares that make them dread hitting the pillow, while some feel like all they want to do is sleep the days away. But rest assured, we’ll be sharing a blog soon to help you catch those much-needed Z’s.
Teeth Grinding – Many people find themselves involuntarily grinding their teeth, especially at night, due to the stress of a breakup. If you notice increased sensitivity or even pain in your teeth or jaw, you might be experiencing this. Speaking of which…“Tooth-hurty” Another peculiar symptom that some experience is aching teeth. Though it’s not entirely clear why this happens, you’re certainly not alone if you find yourself in this situation.
“My teeth hurt. When I feel particularly awful, my whole mouth aches. Maybe it hurts my teeth because it feels like a slap in the face?
Uncontrollable Shaking – This is something that tends to catch people off guard. Stress and emotional turmoil can lead to sudden, uncontrollable shaking or trembling. It can be startling, but know that it’s a physical response to what you’re going through.
Vomit/Wretching – This can be an extreme yet not uncommon reaction to the emotional turmoil of a breakup. One of my best friends experienced this—waking up and vomiting every morning after her split from a long-term relationship. If this is happening to you, it might be reassuring to know that you’re not the only one who has gone through this.
In Salsa girl’s words:
“It’s three months on, but I still get times when I’m physically panicked and have to draw breath. What makes me feel like this is that I suddenly remember that I am not with him anymore, and it feels like the first time he said it all over again. That desperate ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me; it is so awful it must be a dream’ type panic. I’ve even had this horrible ‘waking up’ realisation in my dreams. I would also liken this feeling to the kind of grief you get when someone close to you dies, but the difference is that this is the death of the relationship that you are grieving.”
Weight Fluctuations – Some people gain weight due to comfort eating, while others lose weight because they can’t bring themselves to eat. Emotional stress impacts people differently, so your mileage may vary when it comes to weight changes
X-treme Emotions – Alright, a bit of a cheat using ‘X,’ but the intensity of your emotions can be off the charts. It’s like riding an emotional roller coaster, where you oscillate between extreme sadness and brief moments of relief or even happiness.
Yawning Excessively – Believe it or not, excessive yawning can be linked to anxiety and stress. It’s not just a sign of being sleepy; your body might be trying to draw in more oxygen to stay alert during this stressful time.
Zero Motivation – A sense of apathy can descend, making even the most basic activities seem like monumental tasks. It’s not uncommon to feel a complete lack of motivation in almost every area of your life.