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Breakup Anxiety: How to Deal With It & Overcome Your Biggest Fears

There are two types of breakup anxiety – one happens before a breakup and the other happens after. Both are equally damaging. 

breakup anxiety

Ever noticed how our brains, those squishy bundles of neurons, can sometimes be the ultimate pranksters? Imagine you’re sailing smoothly in your relationship, and suddenly, your brain starts churning out a storm of doubts and fears. What you’re experiencing is called breakup anxiety – where your own mind becomes a master of mischief, painting scenarios of a relationship meltdown. Your brain is running a marathon of worry, leaving you gasping in the wake of ‘what-ifs.’

You’re grappling with thoughts of an impending breakup, even when there’s no concrete reason to believe one is on the horizon. And if the dreaded breakup does happen? Well, your brain shifts gears from speculative worry to post-breakup blues, leaving you to navigate a whirlwind of emotions.

The Two Types of Breakup Anxiety

Now, there are two main types of breakup anxiety.

The first occurs before a breakup, or during a relationship for no good reason. Every relationship goes through tough times, ups and downs and challenges. During these occasions, it can be easy to become fearful of the end. Of course, it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy in some ways. The more you worry about something, the more you’re actually changing your actions to make it happen. 

[Read: Is your negative thinking ruining your life?]

The other type of breakup anxiety is after an actual breakup has occurred. 

Anyone who has ever been through a breakup will tell you how upsetting and difficult it can be. You’re left cold, feeling lonely and lost, almost in grief at the end of a relationship. During this time, it’s easy for anxiety to set in, and you start blaming yourself for every single thing that went wrong. You might even start blaming yourself for things that didn’t go wrong, i.e. things that were not your fault. 

[Read: The steps to get your self esteem back after a heartbreak]

Whatever type of breakup anxiety you’re suffering from, it’s important to put things into perspective, for the sake of your own mental health. 

Breakup Anxiety While Still in a Relationship

Let’s talk a little more about this particular type of anxiety for a minute. Imagine you’re in a relationship where everything seems to be moving smoothly, but suddenly, you’re hit with a wave of uncertainty and worry.

This is the onset of breakup anxiety. It’s as if your mind starts to prepare for a storm that might not even be on the horizon.

1. Mood Swings and Constant Worry

You’re riding an emotional rollercoaster, and it’s not the fun kind. One moment, you’re basking in the warmth of love, and the next, you’re plummeting into a pit of worry.

This constant fluctuation in emotions is a classic sign of breakup anxiety. It’s not just the normal ebbs and flows of a relationship but a state of continual emotional instability, leaving you feeling like you’re losing your footing.

2. Clinginess, Avoidance, or Overcompensation

Your actions start to tell a story that your words can’t. Some days, you find yourself clinging to your partner, seeking reassurance in every word and gesture. Other days, you’re the opposite, putting up walls and distancing yourself, as if preparing for a life without them.

Or maybe you overcompensate, showering them with love and attention, hoping to drown out the nagging fears in your head. These swings in behavior are your subconscious coping mechanisms, a telltale sign of the turmoil that breakup anxiety brings.

3. Persistent Thoughts of a Potential Breakup

It’s like there’s a little voice in your head that won’t stop whispering ‘what if.’ These aren’t just random thoughts, they’re a constant background noise, a chorus of worries about the future of your relationship. [Read: 28 signs he wants to break up but is just too afraid to say so]

Ongoing mental chatter, fixated on the possibility of a breakup, is a clear indicator of breakup anxiety. It’s as though your mind is trying to brace itself for an impact that may never come.

4. Fear of the Unknown

Our brains are hardwired to fear loss, and the mere thought of losing someone important can trigger a whirlwind of anxiety.

The fear of the unknown, of what your life might look like without your partner, often fuels breakup anxiety. It’s a primal response, your brain’s way of trying to protect you from potential hurt, but it also leads to a barrage of worries and what-ifs that can be overwhelming.

5. Overthinking Small Issues

Imagine you and your partner are laughing over a casual dinner, and they make an offhand joke about a TV show you both watch. Suddenly, your mind spirals, wondering if there’s a hidden message in their words.

Overanalysis is a key symptom of breakup anxiety. You find yourself dissecting every conversation, looking for signs of trouble, turning even the most innocent remarks into sources of concern. [Read: 38 secrets to stop overthinking, what it looks like, signs & the fastest fixes]

6. Feeling Insecure or Jealous More Frequently

The surge in feelings of insecurity or jealousy in a relationship can be a significant indicator of breakup anxiety. Psychological studies have shown that anxiety within a relationship often manifests as heightened jealousy and insecurity.

This isn’t just about a fleeting sense of envy. It’s a deeper, more intense feeling that reflects an underlying fear of loss. When these emotions become more frequent and intense, they signal a lack of confidence in the relationship’s stability, often rooted in deeper fears of abandonment or inadequacy.

7. Changes in Communication Patterns

Think about those days when you’re texting your boo, and their replies seem a bit shorter than usual. Instead of shrugging it off, you start to panic: Are they losing interest?

A shift in your communication style, where you read too much into every message and constantly seek reassurance, is a reflection of breakup anxiety influencing your interactions.

8. Social Withdrawal

When your friends invite you out on a Friday night, and all you can focus on is your relationship troubles, preferring to stay home alone, it signifies a deeper issue.

Gradually, you find yourself saying no to social gatherings more frequently, immersing yourself in a world dominated by your relationship concerns. Prioritizing these worries over other important connections in your life is an unmistakable sign of breakup anxiety.

9. Difficulty Focusing on Work or Studies

Experiencing breakup anxiety often leads to challenges in concentrating on work or studies. Cognitive psychology research indicates that anxiety disrupts cognitive functions, especially concentration and attention.

Relationship worries consume a substantial amount of mental energy, impeding your ability to focus on cognitively demanding tasks. Consequently, the relentless replay of relationship concerns in your mind becomes a significant cognitive burden, hindering productivity and focus. [Read: 27 secrets to focus on yourself, grow as a person & create your own sunshine]

10. Physical Symptoms

Restlessness at night, with your relationship worries keeping you wide awake, is a classic symptom of breakup anxiety. You might also notice changes in your eating habits or experience frequent headaches.

These are physical responses to the intense emotional stress you’re under, showing the direct impact of your mental state on your body’s well-being.

11. Avoiding Discussions About the Future

Feeling reluctant to talk about future plans with your partner is often a manifestation of deeper fears associated with breakup anxiety.

Studies in relationship psychology have found that concerns about the stability of a relationship can lead to an avoidance of making future commitments. This behavior is more than just reluctance; it’s a subconscious effort to protect oneself from the emotional pain of potential loss, reflecting the deep impact of anxiety on your approach to the future.

12. Neglecting Personal Interests and Hobbies

Remember when you used to get excited about your morning runs or looked forward to your weekend painting sessions? If these activities start to seem less appealing, it’s often a sign that breakup anxiety is taking a toll.

Instead of a mere change in interests, this shift signifies how your anxiety is overshadowing areas of your life that once brought joy, indicating the pervasive nature of your emotional state.

13. Increased Irritability and Impatience

Finding yourself irritated by minor things, such as your partner forgetting to refill the ice tray, points to more than just a momentary annoyance.

This heightened sensitivity to small irritations is a symptom of the deeper, underlying breakup anxiety you’re experiencing. It reflects a state where even trivial matters are amplified by the ongoing emotional strain.

14. Questioning Your Partner’s Actions and Motives

When you begin to scrutinize your partner’s every action, questioning their motives for working late or their choice of clothing, it’s more than simple curiosity.

This persistent scrutiny and search for hidden meanings in mundane actions reveal a significant level of breakup anxiety. Trust and security start to erode, replaced by doubt and suspicion that permeate your thoughts and interactions. [Read: Trust issues in a relationship: 22 whys & ways to get over it together]

How to Deal With Breakup Anxiety While in a Relationship

So, you’re in a relationship, but instead of just enjoying the ride, your brain keeps hitting you with worst-case scenarios. Every little bump in the road feels like it’s leading to a breakup cliff.

But hang on, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet. How do you sort out these feelings and keep your relationship on track?

1. Get Your Facts Straight

Start by assessing the situation objectively. Are there tangible reasons for your anxiety, or is it mostly unfounded fears? Research in cognitive-behavioral therapy highlights the importance of challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs.

Reflect on your relationship’s actual state, considering both your feelings and observable facts. This process can help you discern if your anxiety is a response to real relationship issues or mostly an internal fear.

2. Open Communication with Your Partner

Discuss your feelings with your partner. A study in The Influence of Anxiety on Communication in Relationships showed that open communication can significantly reduce relationship anxiety.

Share your fears and concerns in a non-accusatory way, focusing on how you feel rather than what your partner is doing wrong. This approach fosters understanding and can help alleviate some of the anxieties you’re experiencing. [Read: 42 secrets to communicate better in a relationship & ways to fix a lack of it]

3. Mindfulness and Emotional Awareness

Practice mindfulness to stay grounded in the present moment. A study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress in relationships.

By being mindful, you can observe your emotions without getting swept away by them, which is crucial in managing breakup anxiety. Recognize your feelings, understand their origins, and let them pass without judgment.

4. Seeking Support from Friends or a Therapist

Don’t hesitate to lean on your support system or seek professional help. Talking to friends can provide a different perspective, while a therapist can offer expert guidance rooted in psychology.

Therapy can help you understand the roots of your anxiety and develop strategies to cope with it.

5. Engaging in Self-Care and Personal Development

Invest time in self-care and activities that boost your self-esteem and happiness. Engaging in hobbies, exercise, or simply taking time for yourself can be therapeutic.

Regular self-care is widely recognized as beneficial for mental health, helping to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.

By focusing on activities that bring you joy and relaxation, you’re not just managing breakup anxiety; you’re also investing in your personal growth and happiness.

Post-Breakup Anxiety

Okay, so that impending doom you were feeling? It turned into reality. The breakup happened, and now you’re left navigating through its emotional aftermath.

It’s a tough journey, but understanding the signs of post-breakup anxiety is the first step towards healing

1. Intense Feelings of Sadness, Loneliness, or Emptiness

Deep sadness or loneliness often envelops you after a breakup. These emotions are akin to grief, as psychologists note, because you’re mourning a significant part of your life.

A sense of overwhelming emptiness might prevail, feeling as though a crucial part of your existence has vanished. [Read: How to not feel lonely: 30 ways to chase the lonely blues away]

2. Sleep Disturbances, Changes in Appetite

Physical manifestations like sleep disturbances or fluctuating appetite commonly accompany the emotional turmoil post-breakup.

Struggling with insomnia or oversleeping, and experiencing a fluctuating appetite, are typical ways your body responds to stress.

3. Social Withdrawal or Obsessive Thoughts About the Ex-Partner

You may withdraw from social interactions, preferring solitude to process your thoughts, or you might obsess over your ex, replaying memories and scenarios.

Both are common reactions to the mix of anxiety and confusion that follows a breakup.

4. Loss of Routine and Comfort Zone

Your daily routine and comfort zone often suffer disruption post-breakup.

Shared activities and habits with your ex-partner might suddenly lose their meaning, leading to feelings of instability and anxiety as you adjust to new norms.

5. Identity Reformation

In the aftermath of a breakup, especially after long-term relationships, you might face the challenge of redefining your identity.

The process can be anxiety-inducing as you navigate questions about your individuality and what lies ahead.

6. Social and Peer Pressure

Navigating single life after a breakup can be a challenging journey, especially when faced with social and peer pressure. The expectation to quickly explain your new status or the perceived need to move on swiftly can add layers of stress and anxiety.

This pressure can come from various sources – friends, family, or even societal norms portrayed in media. Coping with this pressure while managing your own emotional recovery is a delicate balance, requiring both time and self-compassion.

7. Difficulty in Making Decisions

In the wake of a breakup, you may find decision-making, even for mundane things, surprisingly difficult. Psychologists link this to the high emotional stress that impairs cognitive functions, including decision-making.

Stress can cloud your judgment and make even routine choices seem daunting. It’s a reminder of how deeply emotional turmoil can affect our mental processes, impacting not just how we feel but also how we think and act. [Read: Why am I so indecisive? 25 whys & ways to be an instant decision maker]

8. Feelings of Regret or Guilt

It’s common to grapple with feelings of regret or guilt after a relationship ends. You might find yourself replaying scenarios, wondering what could have been done differently.

These thoughts can create a cycle of emotional distress, as suggested by emotional processing research. Learning to navigate these feelings, perhaps by acknowledging them and then letting them go, can be an important step in the healing process.

9. Fear of Starting New Relationships

After a breakup, the thought of entering into a new relationship can be daunting. This fear often stems from past relationship traumas and goes beyond the fear of simple rejection.

It encompasses a deeper apprehension about being vulnerable again and potentially experiencing similar pain. Acknowledging this fear and understanding its roots can be the first step towards overcoming it.

10. Reduced Self-Esteem

The end of a close relationship can often trigger a significant drop in self-esteem. Research in social psychology suggests that such events can lead to negative self-perception and doubts about one’s own worth.

This decrease in self-esteem is more than just feeling sad; it’s about how you see and value yourself, which is crucial for overall mental health and well-being. [Read: High self-esteem: 33 low signs, what hurts self-worth & secrets to pump it]

11. Avoidance of Familiar Places or Activities

Many find themselves avoiding places or activities that remind them of their ex-partner. This avoidance is a natural defense mechanism to dodge painful memories.

However, it can inadvertently lead to a more confined lifestyle and increased anxiety. It’s important to find a balance between allowing yourself time to heal and not letting avoidance limit your life experiences.

12. Changes in Relationship with Friends and Family

Your relationships with friends and family may undergo changes post-breakup. You might seek more support from them, or perhaps you find it hard to connect, feeling that they may not fully understand your situation.

These shifts in your support network are a natural reaction to the emotional upheaval you’re experiencing and can affect both your personal and social life.

13. Obsessive Planning for the Future

In an attempt to cope with breakup anxiety, some people turn to meticulous planning for the future. While this can provide a sense of control, it can also inadvertently increase anxiety due to the pressure to have everything figured out.

The behavior underscores the need for balance between planning for the future and living in the present.

14. Intense Anger or Resentment

Feelings of anger or resentment towards an ex-partner are not uncommon after a breakup. Such intense emotions, often rooted in feelings of betrayal or injustice, can intensify the anxiety and hinder the healing process. [Read: 22 secrets to stop being so angry, calm your mind & stop hurting yourself]

15. Nostalgia and Idealization of the Relationship

It’s fascinating how our brains often cling to the good memories, overshadowing the not-so-great moments of a past relationship. Suddenly, you find yourself reminiscing about your ex’s charming traits, conveniently forgetting the reasons why things didn’t work out.

This selective memory bias can distort reality, leading to an idealized view of the relationship that heightens anxiety and makes moving on more difficult.

How to Deal With Breakup Anxiety After Breakup

If you’re reeling from the aftermath of a breakup, it’s not uncommon to find yourself grappling with anxiety. The end of a relationship can send shockwaves through your emotional and daily life. But there’s a path to recovery, and it starts with understanding how to navigate through this challenging time.

1. Allow Yourself to Grieve

Recognize that it’s okay to grieve the loss of a relationship. Psychologists emphasize the importance of the grieving process in healing from emotional trauma.

Allow yourself to feel the sadness, anger, or even relief that comes with the end of a relationship. This emotional processing is crucial for healing. Suppressing your feelings can prolong the pain, so give yourself permission to experience these emotions without judgment.

2. Establish a New Routine

After a breakup, your daily routine can feel disrupted. Psychologists suggest that establishing a new routine can provide a sense of normalcy and stability.

Start by incorporating small changes or new activities that you enjoy. This can be as simple as taking a new route for your morning walk or trying out a new hobby. A new routine helps in creating a sense of control and normalcy in your life, providing a structure to navigate post-breakup life.

3. Reconnect with Yourself

Use this time to reconnect with yourself and your interests. Perhaps you’ve been eyeing those aerial hoops classes or thinking about picking up that guitar again.

Now might be the perfect opportunity to dive into these activities. Engaging in pursuits you’ve always wanted to try or revisiting old hobbies can do wonders for your mood and self-esteem. [Read: How to get a life: 20 things you MUST do to feel alive again]

Rediscover old passions or explore new ones. Join that local art class you’ve been curious about, start a blog, hike that trail, or even delve into cooking exotic recipes.

4. Expand Your Social Network

Lean on friends and family for support. Isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Engaging with your social network can provide emotional support and a sense of belonging.

Additionally, consider joining clubs or groups that align with your interests. Building new relationships and strengthening existing ones can be a powerful antidote to the loneliness that often accompanies a breakup.

5. Consider Professional Help if Needed

Sometimes, the best course of action is to seek professional help. As we mentioned above, still, a therapist can provide a safe space to explore your emotions and develop strategies to cope with anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy *CBT*, in particular, has been shown to be effective in managing anxiety. Therapy can offer insights into your emotional patterns and help you build resilience for the future.

It’s a Very Real Thing

It’s never easy to deal with anxiety, whether it creeps up during a relationship or emerges full-force after a breakup. Love and loss are complex and challenging, often bringing with it a host of worries and uncertainties.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Countless others have navigated these turbulent waters, and there’s a wealth of knowledge and strategies to help you through.

Breakup anxiety is a very real thing. It can cast long shadows over your thoughts and feelings, influencing your actions and reactions in ways you might not expect. Whether you’re in a relationship fretting that the end is near, or you’ve just come out of one, learning to deal with your fears and your emotions is key.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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