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5 Ways Relationship Breakdowns Impact Our Mental Health

5 Ways Relationship Breakdowns Impact Our Mental Health

Jan 14, 2022

Whether you’re married, engaged, living together or dating, our romantic relationships are very closely intertwined with our mental, emotional and physical health.

Healthy, stable relationships have been proven to have a positive impact on our wellbeing – lowering stress levels and depression, and even helping us to live longer. But when relationships are no longer healthy and tensions arise, the opposite can be true.

There will always be an emotional fallout when any relationship ends, and while that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t walk away – being involved in a toxic relationship is far more damaging than being alone – it’s healthy to have a good awareness of the impact a break-up can have on your mental health.

That way, you know those feelings are totally normal (they also come as less of a surprise).

5 Ways a Break-Up Can Affect Our Mental Health (and When to Seek Help)

  1. Prolonged feelings of sadness: Whether you made the decision to end the relationship or you didn’t get a say in the matter, you can feel equally sad about it. The end of any relationship is sad – even if you know in your heart that it’s for the best. It’s completely normal to feel down, but if your sense of sadness doesn’t start to improve after a few weeks, it’s time to talk to someone.
  2. Losing interest in the things you love: Being able to revisit the hobbies or experiences that make you happy is really important when you’re going through a break-up, as it reconnects you with yourself – bringing you peace, joy, and some much-needed distraction. A complete loss of interest in the things you used to love could be a sign that you need support with your mental health.
  3. Changes in appetite: When you’re feeing sad and dejected, it can lead to undereating or comfort (over) eating. This is completely normal in the early days, but it won’t make things any better. Instead, focus on a healthy diet that gives you all the nutrients you need to thrive, and get back on your feet.
  4. Feeling worthless: One of the worst things about the breakdown of any relationship is the impact it can have on your self-esteem. It’s human nature to marry our self-worth to our relationships, but you are more than your relationship status. You’re still you, and you still have so much to offer the world and to achieve for yourself.
  5. Having low energy levels: Break-ups can be an enormous drain on our energy levels. When your emotions are running high, it’s exhausting. This can make even small tasks feel overwhelming. Your best recourse is to take small steps, every day. Focus on your sleep, fuel yourself with vitamins, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You’re doing the best you can.

If these feelings fail to go away on their own, it’s worth seeking the support of a therapist, or talking to your GP. There is lots of help available, so you really don’t have to go it alone.

Beyond Romantic Relationships

If you are going through a breakup, it can be incredibly all-consuming – but it’s important not to overlook the positive impact that other relationships can have on our wellbeing.

According to the Mental Health Foundation: “People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected.”

Making time for family, reconnecting with friends, and getting involved in the local community can all contribute to better mental health and wellbeing – particularly following a difficult separation. It helps to know that you’re not alone, and that romantic relationships aren’t the only worthwhile relationships in your life.

Getting Support With a Break-Up

As a therapist, I would never advise a client to leave a relationship; that’s a decision only you and your partner can make. But if your relationship does breakdown, a good therapist can be a guiding light – helping you to work through your emotions, process the grief that often comes with the end of a relationship, and find a healthy way forward.

If you and your partner are keen to work on your relationship, My Little Therapy Box can be used as an exploratory tool to help you better understand one another, and yourself. It can open up conversation, increase intimacy, and facilitate deeper emotional sharing.

If you’re reading this as a therapist, you might be interested in my Relationship Recovery Toolkit course that is being launched on the 15th February. I am also running a FREE webinar around the launch date called How to heal a broken heart a guide to working with separation and divorce.

Access your FREE 'Creative Therapy Training'

My Little Therapy box all started with my passion for helping clients in therapy who struggle to open up and articulate their feelings into words.

In this 30-minute training session, I share the barriers some clients face in therapy and how we as therapists can help them overcome this by using creative ways to help them engage and get the most out of the therapeutic relationship.

This is the same presentation I was invited to deliver at this year’s BACP Annual Online conference.


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