Relationships

15 Signs Your Heartbreak Is Becoming Something More Serious

#3: You’re avoiding your friends.

Here are the signs that your heartbreak may be turning into something more serious.
Shutterstock
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Breakups can be tough. Even if you’re glad to be out of the relationship, major life changes like dealing with the end of a relationship can be rife with emotional turmoil. And understanding when your heartbreak is becoming something more serious can help you start healing.

Heartbreak looks different on everyone because it’s a form of grief, says licensed mental health counselor Brennan C. Mallonee, LMHC. You’re grieving the loss of not only a partner, but your dreams for a future that included that person, she explains. And there’s a reason that grief is so agonizing: It can literally cause emotional and physical pain, says licensed counselor Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP. “A lot of the ‘heartbreak’ symptoms overlap with other disorders, especially depression,” she tells Bustle. “And for people who have already had depressive episodes or who are predisposed to depression, a heartbreak could trigger an episode.”

“Protective factors” like emotional support systems, access to medical care, spiritual beliefs, and employment stability can make healing from heartbreak easier, Parisi says. But if you’re missing some of those supports, coping can be all the more difficult.

While any symptom that is particularly debilitating or long-lasting can be a reason to seek help, mental health professionals agree that there are particular indicators that your heartbreak is turning into more serious. Here are 11 signs your relationship grief is more than it seems, according to experts.

1

You Feel Physically Ill

It’s totally normal to feel heartbreak physically as your body responds to the stress of a breakup (and the resulting cortisol hormone spike), says Parisi. “This overwhelming distress often causes physical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, headache, low energy, low appetite, insomnia, hypersomnia, [and] increased appetite,” she tells Bustle.

But if the feelings in your body keep sticking around or getting worse, it might be a sign that you need more help than you’re receiving, adds licensed clinical social worker Teresa Solomita. This could look like getting sick easily or developing a rash or headaches, she explains. Your physical and mental health are inextricably linked, so it’s important to take care of them both, especially in times when you need resiliency most.

2

You Can't Think About Anything Else

It makes sense for your ex to be running through your mind. But when they’re genuinely all you can think about, Mallonee says it’s time to reassess. “If you start to feel as though life isn’t worth living without the other person, that’s a sign you could use some professional support,” she tells Bustle. “Similarly, if you start to feel like you’re worthless or unlovable after a breakup, that indicates your heartbreak is moving into territory best navigated with help.”

Even once you’ve found a healthy balance, you may still experience some of the symptoms of heartbreak. But it should start to ease up, says Solomita. “You may still think of your ex over time, but you start to have fun again and the memory of the relationship begins to fade,” she says.

3

You're Avoiding Your Friends

Maintaining friendships in the wake of a major breakup can be unbelievably difficult. Although they’re some of the most important people in your life, friends are not trained professionals and may not know how to best support you. But even if they’re not giving you what you need, avoiding your friends is still not the best bet since isolation can exacerbate your heartbreak symptoms, says Mallonee.

Even if your friends are there for you to lean on, it can still be beneficial to get outside support, says Parisi. “If your friends are sick of hearing about it and you're feeling stuck, it’s time to seek professional help,” she says. Your friends can’t solve everything, after all, so a neutral third party could help you get through your heartbreak with a little more ease.

4

You Feel Numb At Work

Shutterstock

One of the worst feelings after a breakup is having to go to the office knowing you won’t be able to concentrate on work. But if that numb-at-work feeling just won’t go away, Solomita says it’s time to take note. “When someone is experiencing heartbreak, the pain can be so great that it feels intolerable... and can color your entire life,” Solomita says. “[Check in with yourself if] you behave robotically or stop feeling passionate about your work.”

Another red flag is skipping work altogether or struggling to keep a job, adds sexologist Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D. If your heartbreak has affected your ability to work to that extent, it’s time to look for professional support.

5

You’ve Lost Your Sense Of Motivation

It can be tough to get back on your feet after having your heart broken. But if you’ve lost the motivation to work, keep up with regular habits, or just go through your day as usual, that’s a signal your heartbreak is taking a serious toll, says O’Reilly. If that’s the case, seeking professional support can help you put the pieces back together and carry on with the things you care about.

6

You're Not Taking Care Of Your Needs

Taking care of yourself is always essential, but it’s especially poignant when you’re restructuring your life post-breakup. And during periods of grief, even the most boring self-care can be vital.

If you find yourself unable to go through the motions of showering, combing your hair, or going outside, that’s a sign your heartbreak is headed to problem territory, says clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. “If the heartbreak is so intense that after two or so weeks we don’t feel like working or going to school, we have lost interest in life around us, we feel that we literally can’t go on or don’t want to go on with life, then seeing a professional is essential,” he tells Bustle.

7

You're Not Having Fun Anymore

Though it can be more difficult to have fun when you’re down, if you've started to notice that you feel unable to enjoy things at all anymore, it might be a sign that you need outside support to help you feel better, says Solomita.

Don’t judge this feeling, though — if you’re wondering, “What does heartbreak feel like,” know that it can be literally painful. “We feel emotional pain in the same part of our brain that we feel physical pain,” she tells Bustle. “It can create a barrier to experiencing the things we used to love.”

8

You’re Struggling To Build A New Routine

Jozef Polc / 500px/500Px Plus/Getty Images

Breakups aren’t only hard because you’re grieving your partner — they’re also difficult because you’re grieving the routines you shared together, says O’Reilly. Where you could once rely on your partner to cook dinner every night, you may have to fend for yourself food-wise now. Or perhaps you counted on your S.O. as your adventure buddy on the weekends, but now struggle to enjoy your days off without them in the picture.

Luckily, routines are replaceable, she says. But if you’re having trouble overcoming sadness about old routines or are struggling to devise a new one, mental health professionals can help you with that. “You don't have to be in an absolute impasse to reach out for help,” O’Reilly says. “You can do it on day one.”

9

You're Struggling With Boundaries

Finding closure and setting boundaries after a breakup are two of the hardest things. But if your night of Instagram-creeping turns into a habit that you can’t break, it might be time to check in with yourself. “If you’re obsessing about the person, stalking them (via social media or in real life!), or structure your life around ‘bumping’ into them or trying to win them back, it might be time for help,” Parisi says.

Once you do get help, you can measure your progress as you set healthier boundaries for yourself, she adds. Maybe you’re no longer checking social media obsessively or don’t text them as often — these can all be signs that you’re turning a corner.

10

You’re Acting Out

Sometimes social media brings out the worst in people during sensitive times. And if you notice that keeping tabs on your ex’s social media is prompting you to behave in ways you ordinarily wouldn’t, like publishing passive-aggressive posts, that could be a sign your feelings about the breakup are only fueling anger and resentment, says O’Reilly. While this doesn’t mean you have to block them forever, it might be a sign that you should talk to someone to get to the bottom of your feelings and develop healthier emotional outlets.

11

You Refuse To Date Again (For The Wrong Reasons)

After a major breakup, dating again can be wildly confusing. While avoiding jumping into anything new might make sense, it’s important to analyze the reasons for your decision, says Solomita. Refusing to date so that you can enjoy the single life is a healthy reason to fly solo, she explains. But if you aren’t dating because you’re scared, that’s only holding you back — bringing your past issues along for the ride isn’t going to help you heal, but working through them will.

12

Your Appetite Has Changed Long-Term

Mario Arango/E+/Getty Images

A breakup can be a huge source of stress, and sometimes too much stress can lead to diet changes, says O’Reilly. This might mean you’ve totally lost your appetite, you’re insatiably hungry, or aren’t eating in a way that makes you feel good. No matter what the change is, a sign that it’s gone too far is that your appetite changes don’t go away even if they make you feel unwell, says O’Reilly. Seeking help for these problems can help you restore your normal eating habits, and getting back to that equilibrium can better equip you to handle stress without debilitating side effects.

13

You're Having New Difficulty With Substances

Self-medicating with substances after a breakup is particularly dangerous because it prevents you from getting to the root of your problem, says Klapow. And while it’s normal to try and safeguard yourself against the intense distress of heartbreak, he says substance use can take a turn for the worse. If you find yourself relying on substances more often than you’d like, it’s time to get outside support to find better coping mechanisms.

14

You Still Can't Sleep

Having trouble sleeping the first couple nights after a breakup is completely legitimate, especially if your former partner shared your bed. But not being able to fall asleep after an extended period of time can be a sign of something more serious, says Solomita.

The same goes for if you start to dread bedtime because of the insomnia you’re experiencing, she adds. Practicing good sleep hygiene and seeing a mental health professional can all help with sleeping problems. And getting your sleep back on track may help you start to feel better on all fronts.

15

It Won't Go Away

There’s no normal timeline when it comes to healing from heartbreak, says O’Reilly. Klapow notes that may be typical to experience several weeks of intense distress, after which some of the more visceral feelings should start to subside. “If you can work, go to school, find the ability to laugh, smile, and experience some level of joy even for a short while within a month of the [breakup], it is running its natural course,” he tells Bustle. “Anything from three to four weeks that hasn’t moved forward deserves extra attention from a professional.”

That said, Parisi recommends checking in with yourself to see if you are able to keep up with your life. “If the answer is ‘no’ for any length of time, that would be a reason to seek help,” she says.

Experts:

Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist and ambassador for sexual wellness and sex toy brands We-Vibe, Womanizer, and Arcwave

Brennan C. Mallonee, LMHC, licensed mental health counselor

Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP, licensed counselor

Teresa Solomita, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker