Panic Attacks After a Breakup (7 ways to Cope)

This blog article will look into panic attacks after a breakup, understand if it is separation anxiety, and coping with such stress after heartbreak. 

Dealing with the end of a relationship can be perplexing. Everybody copes with a breakup differently. Some people find it rather effortless to move on, while some feel intense grief and might even develop a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety. It may depend on several factors, including the seriousness of the relationship, its duration, and who initially called it quits. 

 Additionally, losing your partner can break your routine, and get back to leading a life without them can be cumbersome. If you are not coping well with the breakup, you may come across stimuli that could set you off and even cause panic attacks. 

Panic Attacks After a Breakup 

When a relationship terminates, you may feel like the entire world around you is beginning to collapse. An otherwise healthy and happy person, you now feel intense sadness and all over the place after this breakup. Breakups can be traumatic, exactly how you feel traumatized after losing a loved one or even abuse. 

Regardless of whether this breakup is your first or seventh, it could cause extreme agony and distress. A separation indicates one of the most significant chapters of your life coming to a close. It leads to a plethora of issues, including unmanageable emotions, insecurities, low self-esteem, identity issues, self-doubt, and can even make you question your sexuality. 

When you are not equipped with the resources to combat such concerns, you end up suffering from various psychological disorders, including anxiety with panic attacks and depression. 

If you have compulsive tendencies, you may want to check out your ex’s social media frequently, and if you are susceptible to depression, you may feel excessive guilt, shame, self-doubt. Irrespective of suffering from a full-blown clinical condition, you may experience overwhelming emotions. 

Could It Be Separation Anxiety?

Remember that panic attacks are not the typical responses to stressful situations. It is not merely fear or an adrenaline rush in the face of threat, like an accident or a natural calamity. Panic attacks seem to come out of nowhere without any specific cues. 

As Daniel Tomasulo, a licensed psychologist, describes his experience with a breakup in his blog post, he experienced a panic attack as soon as his relationship ended. He explains how it was not the newness or severity of the fight or his palpitations. The panic attack stemmed from the separation from his partner.

He gives an analogy of the panic a child experiences when taken away from their mother. The panic attack revolved around his separation and loss. 

Gaining insights like this into the root cause of a panic attack, such as separation from their partner or the loss of a relationship, is vital in therapy. Many individuals fail to understand the extent to which a loss or separation can play a role in triggering panic attacks. 

With that said, it is not always separation anxiety, although it could play a role in panic attacks after a breakup. There is a possibility of the presence of agoraphobia, which causes people to avoid situations or surroundings that make them feel helpless, stuck, or humiliated.  

Coping with Panic Attacks After a Breakup

Panic attacks typically last for several minutes, although they may seem never-ending to the sufferer. You must learn coping mechanisms to deal with such panic attacks. Moreover, understanding triggers, including separation, can also be helpful.

  • Seek professional help
  • Understand why your relationship did not work
  • Reassess your relationship goals 
  • Label it 
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • It is okay to feel withdrawal-like symptoms 
  • Avoid isolating yourself
  • Not every relationship is meant to last

Seek professional help

Seeing a mental health professional is the most recommended option when you have panic attacks after a breakup. Panic attacks can be challenging to deal with as they entail physical manifestations along with psychological difficulties. Therefore, going to your primary care physician will help you eliminate any possible underlying medical conditions.

The physician may then refer you to a mental health practitioner, who then prescribes anti-anxiety medication and provides therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is known to help with panic attacks. 

Understand why your relationship did not work

It is common for you to make your ex seem much better than how you saw them while in the relationship. Most people tend to doubt themselves while placing their exes on a pedestal after losing a relationship. 

If you are likely to view your relationship through rosy lenses, make a list of why it was best for it to end. You may even carry this list around to serve as a gentle reminder whenever you need it. 

Introspect and assess your needs

A breakup is an excellent opportunity to introspect actively. Reassess your needs in a relationship and what you desire your prospective partner to have. Understand what is beneficial for your growth and development and actively partake in activities that will help you achieve those goals. 

To make this task more effective, journal your thoughts and feelings. Take the help of a therapist while you are it. Give yourself time to assess your relationship needs and goals. Understand the mistakes you made and the specific actions that hurt you in your relationship. Become wary of these things to ensure you do not repeat them in the future.

Label it as it is

When you are experiencing a panic attack, remind yourself that. Put a label on it as it is. Panic attacks are common when you grieve any loss, including the loss of a relationship and associated things. 

You may feel like you are dying when you are undergoing a panic attack, but that is not the case. Tell yourself that it is a panic attack, which will end. Keep in mind that fearing a panic attack leads to anticipatory anxiety, wherein you panic about panicking. Understand this so that you do not get stuck in that vicious cycle.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, focusing on your senses, meditation, and muscle relaxation can help ground you and restore equilibrium. 

Deep breathing can help manage the hyperventilation that is brought on when you have a panic attack. Finding a peaceful place to meditate or practice any relaxation technique can help you feel safe, allowing you to pay attention to the current state of being. 

Claire Bidwell Smith outlines a particular suggestion in her book Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief. She mentions that when you have a panic attack while you are inside, stepping out can bring relief, and vice versa. Likewise, if you were exercising or engaging in physical activity while experiencing a panic attack, sitting down can be beneficial, and vice versa. 

It is okay to feel withdrawal-like symptoms

You can experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced with a drug. It is because love works on the reward pathways of our brains. Therefore, this emotion can be experienced like a chemical addiction as the same activities occur in our bodies. Hence, it is okay to feel withdrawal-like symptoms after a breakup. 

Researchers show that newly separated individuals experience brain activity similar to that seen in substance addiction. Remember that these feelings fade with time. 

Avoid isolating yourself

Understandably, you might want to stay away from people and isolate yourself. However, doing this is counterproductive. Being around people helps in the healing process. A study shows that being around close ones can make the brain produce endorphins (natural opioids), which help relieve pain just the way Lachryma papaveris does. 

Surround yourself with people who love and care for you and do not make you feel embarrassed or anything unpleasant. 

Not every relationship is meant to last

Some relationships are merely meant to be the means to an end and not the end itself. They are learning curves. Moreover, a concept like “The One” is not valid. Love is something that you choose and can happen any number of times to a person as long as they want it to happen. 

Reflect on your relationship and understand why it did not work, and note down key takeaways that you can use to ensure that your next relationship does not involve the same slip-ups. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Panic Attacks After a Breakup 

For how long do you feel depressed after a breakup?

You may experience adjustment disorder or situational depression for a period of six months to two years after a breakup. However, you can shorten this duration by being wary of the signs and seeking timely and appropriate help.

Can a breakup lead to anxiety?  

Yes, breakups can lead to anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and a lack of interest to engage in fundamental activities. 

What to do when you are experiencing a panic attack?

Here are several things you can do when you are experiencing a panic attack or feel like you are about to have one.

Breathe deeply;
Practice muscle relaxation techniques;
Understand that you are going through a panic attack;
Practice mindfulness;
Visualize a happy memory;
Engage most or all of your senses by finding an object to see, smelling something, listening to the surrounding sounds, and moving your body;
Participate in a gentle exercise;
Repeat a mantra (e.g., “I will be okay,” “Om,” “This will stop.”); and
Take an anti-anxiety pill if you have been prescribed one. 

What should you do after a breakup?

After a breakup, separation, or even a divorce, keep in mind the following things to deal with it effectively.

Give yourself time to process the feelings and grieve the loss of your relationship, support, and even plans.
Allow yourself to process the emotions fully;
Reach out;
Understand to distinguish a normal response to a breakup from depression after heartbreak;
Remember that you can establish new dreams and aspirations;
Take care of yourself and your needs; and
Note down the key learnings from your relationship.

When do you start feeling better after a breakup?

You start feeling better about three months after a breakup. Of course, remember that everybody heals at a different pace, and there is no hurry for you to get over your relationship within a particular period.

Between men and women, who are more affected by a breakup?

There is a higher probability of women being more affected by a breakup than men in psychological and bodily distress. When asked to rate their pain, women report slightly higher levels of both emotional and physical agony. On average, women rated their psychological pain as 6.84, while men rated 6.58. Regarding physical stress, women rated 4.21 as against men’s 3.75.

How does anxiety affect the body?

When you experience anxiety, it affects the body by causing increased heart rate, chest pain, headaches, dizziness, breathing issues, digestive problems, and even temporarily boosting the immune system. However, with repeated anxiety, the immune system can get compromised. 

What we recommend for Panic disorder

Panic Courses

  • Panic courses are a cost-effective way to seek help for panic attacks. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from a panic disorder, then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if you are having panic attack and they are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night

References

Carmichael, C. (2017, February 01). How to deal with a breakup and find love again.  Retrieved from https://www.anxiety.org/dealing-with-a-break-up.  

Chan, A. (2017, February 20). When I Was Devastated by My Breakup, This Is What I Needed to Hear. Verily. Retrieved from https://verilymag.com/2017/02/devastated-by-breakup-things-i-needed-to-hear

Taylor, A. (n.d.). Managing Panic Attacks after a Break-up. Modern Era Counseling. Retrieved from https://www.moderneracounseling.com/panic-attacks-after-breakup/.  

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