Truthfully, I don’t remember how I’ve gotten through most of my breakups. That’s because they made me so depressed that I spent them watching TV and essentially becoming the filling of a Snuggie-and-couch sandwich. It just so happens that forgetting these particularly low moments of my life is one coping mechanism my brain has chosen to keep me going. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy one. And, unfortunately, that’s why those of us who deal with depression have to be prepared to take a few extra precautions when it comes to breakups.
“It’s normal to be sad after the end of a relationship, have a bit of an empty feeling, and question yourself,” says Michael Brustein, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in New York City. “But, ultimately, although you’re sad, you still have your sense of self intact and feel lovable — you’re able to maintain the hope and belief that there will be somebody else.”
However, those darker feelings of depression can easily overlap with our usual sentiments after the end of a relationships. “Some of the hallmark features of depression are feelings of helplessness and worthlessness and a loss of hope for the future,” says Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a psychologist in New York City.
It’s the worthlessness in particular that Dr. Carmichael says has a lot of potential for fueling depression: “When somebody literally abandons you,” she says, “sometimes the message that we hear is ‘I didn’t value you enough to have you in my life.’ That can be a hit on your self-worth.”
Along with with other major emotional life events (e.g. losing your job or the death of a loved one) breakups can absolutely trigger depressive episodes — especially if you’ve experienced an episode before. But it’s not always easy to tell where a reasonable sense of …read more