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How Long Does Anxiety Last After a Breakup? (And What Helps)

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How Long Does Anxiety Last After a Breakup And What Helps

Going through a breakup can be an emotionally intense and stressful time for anyone. Feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, and anxiety are common during this period.

For some people, these feelings – especially anxiety – can stick around for longer than expected, even after the initial grief has passed. This lingering anxiety can negatively impact daily functioning and quality of life.

So how long does post-breakup anxiety tend to last? What causes it to persist? And importantly – what can you do to cope and move forward? This comprehensive guide breaks it all down.

Why Breakups Cause Such Bad Anxiety

Before diving into the duration and remedies, it helps to understand why breakups spark such severe anxiety in the first place.

A few key reasons stand out:

Loss of Attachment

When a relationship ends, your main attachment figure is gone. This triggers your body’s primal “fight or flight” alarm because being isolated was dangerous for early humans.

Losing this consistent source of comfort, intimacy, and support is profoundly destabilizing. The fallout includes chronic stress, racing thoughts, panic attacks – all hallmarks of anxiety.

Grieving Your Dreams

Along with losing a partner, you also grieve dreams and plans you shared as a couple – weddings, having babies, buying homes.

The sudden collapse of your envisioned future is traumatic and anxiety-provoking. Even if consciously you know you’re better off single, subconscious grief still remains.

Self-Worth Impact

Despite best intentions, breakups often sting our egos and self-image.

Thought spirals like “I’m unlovable, there’s something wrong with me” amplify post-breakup anxiety. Especially if some blame or rejection was involved.

Brain Chemical Chaos

Breakups also throw key chemicals and hormones out of balance. Stress hormones like cortisol spike, while bonding/pleasure chemicals like oxytocin plummet.

This chemical rollercoaster directly triggers anxiety mechanisms in both body and mind.

So in summary – losing an attachment figure, combined with ego blows and neurochemical chaos creates the perfect anxiety storm.

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Knowing these core triggers is useful context for making sense of post-breakup anxiety duration and remedies.

How Long Does Anxiety Last After a Breakup?

So back to the central question – how long does anxiety typically last following the end of a serious relationship?

The research shows most people see substantial anxiety relief within 6 months post-breakup, but a subset take 1-2+ years to fully normalize.

More details:

1-3 Months: Worst Distress Phase

The initial 1-3 months after a breakup tend to be the peak period for anxiety and emotional anguish. This is when feelings of panic, loneliness, worthlessness and ruminating thoughts can completely overwhelm daily life.

Sleeplessness, appetite changes, even suicidal ideation are common in this early danger zone. Seeking professional support is wise if distress becomes severe.

That said, most people start finding more steady footing around the 3 month period – the fog slowly starts lifting.

3-6 Months: Gradual Improvement

From 3-6 months post breakup, anxiety levels tend to gradually settle down. More neutral/positive days emerge amongst the harder ones.

Sleep and diet normalize, some momentum builds with work/hobbies, and rumination loses some intensity. This is when proactive self-care really starts helping too.

Lingering pangs are still common during this window – especially on symbolic dates connected to your ex. But distress becomes more fleeting overall.

80% Recover Within 6 Months

Happily, researchers find most people – around 80% – emerge from the deepest anxiety woods within 6 months post breakup. This mirrors typical bereavement timeframes.

Core healing has usually occurred at this stage – attachment wounds closing, dreams revising, self-esteem stabilizing. Life regains reliable calm and hope.

But for some, the 6 month mark remains muddy…which leads us to the longer anxiety timeframes.

Up To 2 Years For Total Resolve

Up to 20% of people take from 6 months to 2+ years for post-breakup anxiety to fully run its course. This outlier group tends to have a few key traits:

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Preexisting anxiety or mood disorders – These amplify and prolong grief reactions and relationship turmoil. Need expert support.

Traumatic breakup context – Cheating, abuse, abandonment, ghosting etc exponentially extend recovery periods. Additional counseling is hugely helpful for processing trauma.

Major attachment style struggles – People leaning “anxious” or “avoidant” have chronic relationship/intimacy issues. Root healing around attachment health is essential.

Personality prone to rumination/over-analysis – The more obsessive or melancholic someone is, the longer working through iterative layers of grief takes.

In these trickier cases, anxiety and recursions can flare up well beyond two years post breakup. Be compassionate with yourself or loved ones facing this.

The good news is anxiety does ultimately fade, using tools we’ll now discuss…

4 Proven Ways To Overcome Post-Breakup Anxiety

If you’re struggling with ongoing anxiety after a relationship ends, take heart. Many effective tactics can help soothe nerves and grieving – expediting healing.

Here are 7 of the most powerful strategies from psychology to incorporate:

1. Establish Soothing Routines

Stable routines are incredibly anxiety-relieving. They also help cement that life goes on post breakup via regular rhythm and ritual. Excellent additions:

Morning walk or yoga – Sunshine and movement are healing, mood-boosting staples. Make them daily habits.

Eat nutritious meals regularly – Don’t skip or overdo meals as blood sugar dips can worsen anxiety. Overall diet quality impacts many aspects of mental health as well – including nervous system balance and neurotransmitter activity.

Daily journaling – Unload swirling thoughts/emotions onto paper. Moving them outside your head diffuses their intensity, creating authentic relief.

Set earlier bedtime – Ensure 7-9 hours nightly sleep to help normalize stress hormones, neurochemistry and mental clarity. This alone could resolve 50%+ of post-breakup anxiety.

Lean on these healthy rituals to provide steady structure as you navigate device days. The stability directly counteracts anxiety.

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2. Limit Social Media Stalking

It’s tempting to compulsively check an ex’s social media for clues about their mindset or new dating activities. But obsessive virtual surveillance severely worsens anxiety.

Seeing an ex enjoying life or with someone new creates fresh hurt and rumination each time. It also breeds shame about one’s own coping trajectory.

Likewise, analyzing old photos/interactions keeps attachment wounds freshly painful.

Set firm limits on checking in – even using website blockers if necessary. Prioritize your mental health over constant, toxic curiosity.

3. Spend Time Offline And In Nature

It’s incredibly difficult to feel grounded these days with endless digital noise and distraction.

But cultivating analog space helps nervous systems normalize in ways online realms can’t.

Take phone-free walks without earbuds, focusing on sensory details around you.

The natural world’s rhythms (light/dark, seasons) gently regulate human biological cycles too – restoring healthy alignment.

If possible, spend time away from urban crowds and concrete immersion. Forests or oceans specifically enhance psychological equilibrium.

Schedule regular tech breaks to come back home to your body physically and metaphorically. The biological benefits measurably ease anxiety.

4. Lean Into Community Support

Loneliness and isolation exacerbate every mental health challenge – especially grief-related struggles like post-breakup anxiety.

Actively nurturing community connections provides a vital counterbalance:

Share your authentic story – Chosen friends/family who support (not judge) you can offer catharsis. Their empathy reminds you of your worth.

Spend time around healthy partners – Witnessing couples with strong communication, conflict resolution and commitment soothes relationship cynicism from your own breakup wounds.

Help others going through similar pain – Support groups, even informal ones, create solidarity and purpose during difficulties.

Luckily, human beings have an innate drive to bond together for wellbeing – an antidote to anxious solo rumination.

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