So You’ve Been Dumped: Now What? The A-Z of Mental, Emotional and Physical Effects of a Breakup

A person’s world, after a breakup, will undoubtedly feel disconcerting, different and daunting. While not everyone will experience all of the following mental, emotional and physical effects of a breakup – everyone will experience some of these.

It’s my intention for you to realise that what you’re experiencing is way more common than you think. 

The following effects have been drawn from my own personal experience of breakups, as well as former forum thread that lasted 23 pages! In reading and responding to it, SYBD site members often expressed relief to realise they were not a “freak” or abnormal for what they were experiencing.

A-C Effects of a Breakup

When a relationship ends, we go through a wide array of physical and emotional symptoms. A body in trauma experiences a heightened emotional state which can manifest in physical symptoms. Mind body and spirit are all connected so when one area is out of whack it effects all others.

Aches occur all over. Head, stomach, chest etc aches. Several people even reported them in their rib cage. More detailed types of pains are mentioned below.

Acne  Well, not too surprisingly, pimples and other skin irritations are often brought on by stress, so break-outs after breakups are not uncommon.

Agoraphobia – after their relationships ended, a few of the SYBD community members experienced feelings of Agoraphobia – or not wanting to leave the house. When they were trying to move on after their relationship ended, not being able to leave the house made it even harder to do so.

Alcohol – self medicating is one tactic people take to dull their heartbreak. Some people will drink to excess. (Many who said they were drinking more also admitted to chain smoking).

Strangely, however, some people do find they drank less after a breakup. It’s worth bearing in mind that alcohol is a depressant and should generally be avoided if you’re already feeling down or depressed.

Always on the go – people have reported pacing, an inability to be still. Some expressed a constant need to be busy. The social calendar is full so that there’s no time to think about the breakup or even heal properly.

Anger – I have always said that anger is a wily emotion. Often what we think we are angry about, we’re not. The anger could be at your ex, a third party and it’s often at ourselves too. It’s good to feel it but better to work through and release it.

Anxiousness – having anxiety and feeling edgy and nervous is quite a common trait. Most people will have some anxiousness on their road to recovery.

Apathy – or a total “I don’t care” attitude. It’s pretty normal to feel disconnected and not really caring about life, work, studies, family, or anything – for a while.

Feeling apathetic may lead to procrastination at home or at work. This period of apathy will vary from person to person. I talk more about feeling apathetic under lethargic and numbness below.

Appetite – Dumpees may find that they experience appetite fluctuations. Some binge or comfort eat others starve themselves, and experience a complete to lack of appetite. 

It can also be some combo of the two. Having fluctuating appetites is a thing and it affects men and women of all ages. You may go through phases where you eat comfort foods or you might be completely off your food entirely. “Breakup diet” anyone? It’s a thing.

In turn, you may loose weight, or gain it, depending on your own eating habits. People reported having tastebud changes, different cravings and other people said that their mouths felt “pasty”.

BO / Body Odour – Our bodies can change due to the diet and sleep pattern fluctuations resulting in a different sort of smell coming off the body.

Chain-smoking – smokers may have noticed an increased desire to smoke and even non-smokers may start to smoke.

Chest pains effect many people going through a breakup or divorce. It has been known for some people to feel like they’re having a heart attack! Physical aches and pains are real for the broken hearted. It can manifest as a tight feeling in the chest, knots, dull or even sharp pains. Keep breathing: inhale. Exhale.

Cleaning can honestly go either way. Speaking from experience, I have had periods when I was a complete slob after a split, and others where I cleaned stuff in order to think or not think depending on my mental state.

Anyone remember the cleaning the toilet with he exe’s t-shirt scene in Singles? A Kyra Sedgwick classic – the “Blue T-shirt” scene Cleaning.

Crying – you will probably cry. You may even cry a lot. It can hit men and women at any time or anywhere. Go ahead and cry. Whatever your age, get it out of your system.

Crying may also come in with that added bonus of physically trembling/shaking – sometimes uncontrollably – so watch out for that side effect.

Judith said: I cried so much for a week I literally felt my tears “dry up”. I was still sad, but could not cry anymore.

D-L Breakup Effects

Dissociated – Dissociation is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event. One site member ‘ouch’ described it this way: “being in the same room with someone else, yet at the same time being on a completely different planet.”

People have felt like they’re in a hole or trapped which is disconcerting to say the least.

Dizzy, lightheaded and even shaky. Weird physical spasms can spring upon us. There may be waves of wooziness and you could find your shaking hands, legs, or even full body spasms. 

Focus may be hard. Over the years, many site members have reported a complete inability to focus on anything or anyone else. Some even said they couldn’t even watch TV, read a book or listen to music. Dumpees say they’d start on something, and just abandon it halfway through. People struggled to listen to others when they were speaking to them. That general lack of concentration is something that most people will experience at one point or another.

Hair loss is another thing that can happen after a breakup, no doubt due to all the stress the body is under coming to terms with the loss.

Headaches – people may get sore heads due to the overall stress of breaking up, lack of sleep, dehydration or perhaps continually playing those troubled thoughts all night and day. 

Lethargic – as mentioned above, feeling apathetic about day-to-day life and having little desire to do even the most simplest of tasks – eating, showering, combing or doing your hair, getting dressed, or even more essential tasks at hand. 

Libidos will vary. Some people will experience a random horniness or a complete lack of interest in sex altogether. You may experience both in any given day, week or month. 

M-Z of Breakup Effects

Mood swings – can effect anyone at any time. You may be laughing one minute and go straight into sobbing the next. It can be a case of random moods changing so fast you feel like you might get whiplash.

Nausea, cold sweats, hot flashes, runny noses (turning raw) & so on – these are some things that both men and women have experienced. These and a wide array of other body spasms too. Stress can cause havoc on our systems. 

Neediness – sometimes people have reported feeling a bit needy and not wanting to spend any time alone. Some have admitted feeling like they didn’t want to be alone so much that they almost felt like they needed to be “babysat”.

In a different sort of way, people sometimes experience a sort of desperation and a desire to do just about anything to get an ex back. Being so needy for some has meant begging their ex to take them back.

Numbness – After a shock or traumatic experience, such as a breakup, it’s fairly common to feel numb at some point. Sometimes it’s not just emotional numbness – forum members reported sometimes feeling their extremities would go cold and numb.

Obsessive or Racing Thoughts are experienced by most people when a relationship ends. These thoughts will often be about the ex partner, the overall relationship, any replacement (an ex’s new partner) and the future in general. These are common worries that people experience.

One former site member Lola described these as “recurring, obsessive thoughts” about her ex and their memories.

Panic Attacks are extremely common. Having panic attacks, shortness of breath and heart palpitations (or pounding) is often experienced by men and women going through intense breakups. It can be hard to catch your breath and you may have uncontrollable shaking. 

Sadness is something most people will experience to varying degrees at different times during their recovery process. It often washes over you like a dark cloud – sometimes out of the blue.

In some more severe cases it may develop into more intense feelings of depression.

After my biggie breakup, I got put on a doctor’s waiting list because I just felt so down and lost. Luckily though by the time the appointment rolled around (many months later), I no longer needed it.

Skin rashes – skin irritations like rashes and eczema can show up during such times as a stressful breakup. They can be anywhere on your body from your face to your feet.

Suicidal Thoughts – If you have thoughts of suicide you’re not alone. It can happen to the best of us…because we feel like we will always experience this excruciating pain. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Suicide, as they say, is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As hopeless as you feel, and as tempting as it may feel, it is not the answer. People care. We care. We at SYBD are here for you to listen with empathy – on the blog and one the forum. If you really feel close to it, please get some professional help.

Sleeping – like appetites, our sleep patterns are often disrupted due to a breakup. Some people won’t be able to sleep at all, others are plagued with nightmares when they do, while may people may feel like all they want to do is sleep. (A blog to help you sleep will be posted soon). Insomnia was constantly reported as a side of effect to their breakup. Many people, myself included, would wake around 4am and have trouble getting back to sleep again.

“Tooth-hurty” there have been men and women reporting their teeth actually hurting not entirely sure what that is about but worth noting in case it’s happening to you.

Husky shared: “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?”

Vomit/Wretching – One of my best friends would wake up and vomit every day after her split from a long term relationship. I’ve actually heard many people say it’s happened to them. If you’re throwing up, you’re not alone.

In site member’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 soo 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.” – Salsa Girl

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