How to Break Up Without Getting Depressed

It's normal to feel sad after a love affair ends, but pay attention to the symptoms of depression

How sad is too sad after a breakup? This is a question I often come across in my practice. Allowing yourself to experience grief is a healthy response to a loss. The end of a romantic relationship can lead to sadness, longing and even confusion, and these feelings usually resolve in time.

In contrast, a major depression is a clinical condition that includes sadness, but can be debilitating and include other symptoms such as changes in weight, sleep, energy and interest, appetite and concentration. A major depressive episode can also bring recurrent thoughts of worthlessness, death and suicide. Women are especially vulnerable to depression -- up to 20 percent of women in the United States will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. The loss of a relationship is a common trigger for depression, especially in women. This is not surprising, because most women accept the responsibility for maintaining a successful relationship, making it a core part of their self-esteem. Thus, the end of a relationship may feel not only like a loss, but also a failure that strikes at your identity.

If you have a history of previous depressive episodes, childhood trauma or early loss, you are more vulnerable to a depressive episode now. When trust is broken or you feel abandoned, early losses and painful memories can be awakened. Similarly, if you come from a family with depression, substance abuse or chronic illness in a parent, you may have patterns of self-blame that can lead to depression.

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