Psychiatric consultation post relationship breakup.
Breaking up with a romantic partner can be an excruciating experience and have a drastic impact on physical and mental well-being. Many brain scans and neurological studies indicate that when one breaks up and romantic care is withdrawn, the brain reacts in a way that a person going through withdrawal symptoms from drugs like cocaine would. It is a massive adjustive demand placed on the individual to cope with a multitude of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Many people recover from the high intensity difficulties within a few months of the breakup, however for a few it can last for over 6 months to a year which can be arduous. And as a consequence, become vulnerable to mental health concerns, most commonly depression. The symptoms of depression are below:
- Lack of pleasure in earlier pleasurable activities
- Increased fatigability
- Increased guilt and decreased confidence
- Suicidal ideation/attempts
- Disturbed sleep and appetite
- Hopelessness and helplessness about themselves and the world
- Social withdrawal.
Psychiatric and psychological consultation for anybody experiencing the above symptoms for over 4-6 months and affecting life in general will be highly beneficial and may help the individual to create paths towards recovery. One may assume that it is enough to talk to family or friends to feel better, and there is no denying that as well, however talking to a professional, a psychiatrist or a psychologist gives the recovery process a shape and structure making it more comfortable and smooth.
The consultation doesn’t end with one meeting, but the professional may suggest for more sessions depending on the severity and intensity of symptoms.
Psychiatrists may prescribe medication if symptoms are interfering with the individual’s day to day life and impacting other areas of life like work, other relationships and hobbies. And may even take up the therapy process if they are trained for the same. And if not, refer to a psychologist/therapist who will do the needful.
What would the psychiatrist/psychologist do in these sessions?
The professional would first listen to what the individual is experiencing and may ask more questions to understand his/her perception of oneself, and the secondary losses that one is going through as a result of the circumstance. Secondary loss basically means the losses that one experiences as a result of losing this relationship. Emotional distress is the natural consequence of the loss in itself and the secondary losses. Some psychological elements of the secondary losses assessed would be:
- Sense of loss and feeling lost: The void experienced because of the absence of a partner can shake an individual’s life and may leave one with a feeling of not knowing where to go or what to do.
- A strong sense of rejection: This feeling paves way for a host of difficult emotions like anger, frustration, jealousy and sadness. It attacks the whole system of self and may result in deprecation and self - worth crises.
- Sense of abandonment: This can especially be traumatic for people who have had difficult childhood experiences in terms of caregivers having abandoned them or even previous partners leaving them. This causes anxiety of high intensity and fears of being alone and intrusive thoughts of everybody leaving them.
- Self – doubt: Thoughts of not being enough, or questioning one’s own actions repeatedly.
- Loneliness: Especially if social circles were the same, one may end up not wanting to talk to anybody and end up feeling severely lonely.
- Intrusive thoughts about the partner and the relationship: Repeated thoughts of the person and experiences in the relationship both pleasant and unpleasant become almost continuous making it hard to focus on everything else.
- A partial loss of identity: Questions of ‘who am I’, ‘who was I in the relationship’, ‘what parts of me were actually connected to my authentic self’. Although these questions can be helpful, it puts a lot of pressure on oneself and may hinder the recovery process.
- Distorted thinking patterns: Over-generalization is one of the most common thinking traps that people go through, feeling that everybody leaves me or everybody would leave me. There may be many others like personalizing, minimizing etc.
All the above will be assessed in the initial sessions and addressed as sessions progress. The following may be a framework of the process:
- Talking about one’s experience of the loss to help actualize the loss
- Acknowledge and work through the pain of the emotional distress as mentioned in the psychological elements.
- Coping mechanisms to reduce the suffering. Symptom reduction through the use of healthy and effective coping like mindfulness, journaling or employing empowering attitudes as deemed fit by the psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist.
- Adapting to the new reality without the person. This can include accessing existing resources like family, friendships, hobbies or activities one is passionate about.
- Eventually, accepting and being able to reconstruct one’s life and go back to normal routines, as a more evolved person.
The mental health professional may in the process also deep dive into understanding the personality in as much depth as possible. Additionally, if there are dysfunctional patterns resulting from adverse childhood experiences, this would be explored too. This ensures lesser likelihood of a repeat incident in the future. Therefore, therapy does not only address the situation in question but goes way beyond that and empowers an individual to understand him/herself better.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health concerns seek help from the mental health professional . Mpower, a mental health initiative by Aditya Birla Education Trust has a team of experienced mental health professionals in the centres located in Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata . A new mental health centre is opening up soon in Pune as well.
Also read, Signs that your relationship is unhealthy. Seek help from a
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