Your Heart

A Traumatic Breakup Can Actually Cause Symptoms Of PTSD

By October 22, 2015 26

All of my breakups have been hard, but my last one left me utterly traumatized.

No, my life was not threatened; no, I was not physically harmed; and no, I did not experience any terrible events in my childhood–I was simply abandoned by someone I loved.

Everyone goes through difficult breakups but an unlucky portion of us have had an exceptionally tough time coping with them. And an even smaller portion suffer to such a degree that it resembles post-traumatic stress disorder.

The pronounced symptoms of PTSD that occur in these traumatic breakups are: nightmares, flashbacks, extreme distrust of others, severe anxiety, insomnia, avoidance of anything related to the event, self-destructive behavior, guilt and irritability. These PTSD-like symptoms are more likely to occur if the breakup was sudden and/or your partner was someone you fully trusted. The shock of being betrayed by someone you trusted can be a deeply upsetting trauma and can subsequently lead to an immense distrust of others and great negativity regarding life in general. Previous relevant experiences can add up over time and increase your chances of suffering from post-traumatic stress in the future. This kind of stress is more apparent in people who have undergone stressful divorces but can also afflict those going through a breakup.

My breakup experience was definitely more severe than most, as I experienced many of these symptoms. The breakup was a complete surprise which has since totally altered my ability to trust people. I found out that I had been deceived for a great portion of the relationship and I felt completely violated in that I had trusted this person with my body and soul. I consequently suffered from insomnia, nightmares and suicidal thoughts. I starved myself, sobbed endlessly, and obsessed over the guilt for months. I had no choice but to relive the agonizing moments of the breakup over and over again in vivid memories.

I am much better now, but the trauma continues to haunt me as I often relive the very feeling of heartbreak I felt at the moment of the breakup. It is a literal physical pain that strikes me in the chest and anything that reminds me of the breakup causes me to become very emotional. I now have permanent, severe anxiety that I carry with me every moment. I am constantly afraid of being betrayed, lied to, or abandoned. I am now aware that the memory of my mother abandoning me when I was younger and my previous breakups may have been what caused my last breakup to be so traumatic.

The point in revealing this information about myself is to shed light on the potential magnitude of a breakup. Not many realize that it can be a traumatic event for some, leaving them with symptoms similar to those of PTSD and permanently damaging their lives. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to break up with someone. I’m saying that one should be respectful and careful about the way they do it and should, more importantly, never lead someone on in the first place.

The word “love” is often thrown around carelessly and relationships aren’t always taken as seriously as they should be. Please realize that breaking up with someone may lead to psychological damage. Don’t tell someone you love them if you don’t. Don’t recite vows and marry someone if you don’t really believe in honoring those vows. Don’t date someone and continue to use their body when you know you don’t want to be with them. And keep in mind that the breakup might be right and simple for you but eternal for someone else.

To view more amazing art like the featured painting, click the image. Click here to read the article that inspired this post.

 

Comments

  • Steven Gerogianis

    Yup. I am screwed.

  • Archer

    I get so scared overall about love, and life in general. no matter how much i think i’m stronger from my previous relationships and trauma, I end up commiting to people that are either narcissistic, emotional unavailable or simply just use me. this recent guy just broke with me cuz he said I overthinked stuff, when in reality, I have anxieties when it comes to emotions, is hard for me to trust, and when things start settling (many dates, many nights together), I want to settle and really trust the person i’m with… and my needs weren’t being met, he didn’t take iniciative or communicate (it was a long distance relationship). all of sudden he broke with me when trying to resolve issues, and yet so confused of everything else. I ended it up in depression, anxiety and psdt. I come to learn that these issues we have to work and start protecting ourselves… cuz when time goes by, then you’re okay again, but the problems are still underneath there emotionally and they might surface again. I can’t tell if i’m gonna be the same again the next time, if i’m cursed to just suffer the most, being always the one that likes best. and when I don’t, i dont like at all, it’s like extremes. I don’t believe in love anymore… i’m crying while typing this but it’s true, looks are so deceiving, people promises worlds, I don’t believe in them, they always leave you when things get hard. it hurts so much.

  • Meowchi D

    I went through a very traumatic breakup with someone I was deeply in love with and wanted to marry. Things were doing much better until he found out he got me pregnant he started becoming meaner and meaner to me, then our baby came and became even more angry and delusional (he has mental problems like me but his are more severe). It got to the point where I was scared of him and didn’t want him around our baby, but there would be small moments of calm and happiness while together. One day something very bad happened and I had to call the police because he was acting dangerously out of control. He later was arrested he announced how he wants me dead and he doesn’t want anything to do with our baby and we haven’t spoke since. I’ve had extreme feelings of abandonment I was so traumatized I feel like I’m dying I can’t feel much of anything and when I do it’s because I’m replaying things over and over again in my head. Towards the end of our relationship he was not a nice person to me at all but i still loved him I feel bad for our child I feel like I did something wrong I know I didn’t he chose to hurt me and he will eventually really hurt our child if he chooses to not be there. I’ve never felt feelings of abandonment so intensely in my life. It hurts to the point where I am numb.

  • natheriot

    Just went through the worst kind of break up I think I will ever experience in my life. Found out my ex cheated on me for almost a year in our 2-yr relationship, she continued to lead me on after the break up (before I knew about the cheating) and then got engaged with that guy only 4 months after the breakup. I had to find out about the engagement on facebook. I had trouble breathing, sleeping, going to work, doing basically anything was difficult.
    I feel a little better now, but I still get flashbacks and sometimes get constant heaviness in my chest. People can be so cruel and selfish.

  • lgnanny

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you connected your childhood trauma of being abandoned by your mother to your breakup. Adoption trauma or when a child is separated from his or her mother can cause Complex PTSD and can affect all your future relationships. Read “The Primal Wound”.

  • Martin Andrews

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article and share your experience. Tragically it’s true there are people in this world that are simply reckless when it comes to the hearts of others. I suffered a breakup, first break 12 months ago, and again after we were medium chill status 6 months ago (got back together/repair after first break), but both break ups literally blindsided me. The girl I was dating, broke it off abruptly– and with such cold indifference right before the holidays… That was the first break. After 5 years, she just went from “in love” to “no emotion it’s over” and cut me lose in public in the rain, acting like it was nothing to her. We got back together, basically working on us. 6 months later I find out she had been sleeping with another guy, had totally written me off to all her friends and had told everyone we were over long ago; introducing the new guy around all while flip flopping back and forth, in terms of our beds. It literally hit me like a atom bomb. While we had our issues, and were both, including myself, guilty of misdeeds in our relationship, the infidelity, which spanned years with multiple people (only finding out at the final break); hit me so hard I ended up in the hospital with my first “panic attack” at 36. I felt my body had been violated. I felt my soul and humanity had been violated in a way you simply do not treat a person you claim to love, let alone love for so many years. Lastly, on top of the infidelity, the outrageous lies and deceit, from concealing an abortion, to concealing infidelities with married men, and hiding a whole new life and relationship for months, all while continuing to “make love” and “plan a future”, with me, she did the breaking over the phone, as casual as can be. She just called up casually, after 5.5 years, and said she cheated, it was whatever, she was a cat with no collar, no one can own a person’s body, she wanted to go have fun, it’s what young people do… I was crying at this point, and told her I didn’t understand how she could do this, that I loved her so much, to which she responded, “dude you’re retarded”. I literally dropped the phone shaking. To this day, 6 months later, I am severely affected by this experience. I’ve had other break ups, long term relationships, but never an ending where the other person just obliterated our entire experience, making all of our shared experiences haunted memories. Like a half decade of memories, pictures, places we traveled, instant triggers that cause physical pain to manifest, chest pain, nausea, just a feeling of such grief and sadness. Having to deal with the fact that in the end, she had lied, and it wasnt just a random hookup, but rather, she had started dating the guy 4 months prior, and moved in with him – the day after/around – her dumping me… and ghosting me, never returning a single call again… was just injury added to insult. I’ve done therapy, spent a few days in a center, and was given a diagnosis of CPTSD. While I have been getting better; my trust is shattered. It’s affected friendships; due to the shame of not wanting to be around; feeling uncomfortable around, people who know what happened. It’s terribly embarrassing. Like, how was I that guy, such a fool. I realize what happened doesnt make me “broken”, but it feels that way. I’m doing better 6 months later… but have a ways to go. I am not dating, not close to being ready to open my heart and trust someone again… I have no urge to do so. It amazes me how some people can be in one relationship for almost 6 years, and just in a day, in one single day, flip the switch to a whole new full time relationship, and completely forget without a care the one before. I wish for me, it was that easy. I’ve never had a break up like this… The way she ended us, makes me regret the entire relationship, it’s the first time I really wish I didn’t remember the ex at all.

    • Jen Wilson

      Omg, Martin, your story is literally the same as mine. My ex did basically the same thing to me & we were together for 6 years too & lived together. It was like being married. He is the most vile, manipulative, lying, cheating person I have ever known. I too have no trust in people & feel like I will never be able to be in another relationship. The damage seems irreparable. I cannot fathom how someone who supposedly “loves” you can treat you like that. It makes me feel so angry at love & I feel like I will never be the same.

    • Steven Gerogianis

      My relationship only lasted 3 months but being 34, as loving as i was and as affectionate and loving as I thought she was, it has ruined me. I cannot think about trusting anyone. I barely trusted anyone before I met her. She broke me and she is a victim of PTSD herself. Knowing how bad it can be, she ruined me one day right after I took her to dinner.

  • Ailil Coutinho Aguilera

    I am also glad you wrote this because I went through something similar, and my symptoms were just as you describe. I had nightmares, avoidance of anything that reminds me of him or the relationship, to the point of not wanting to leave the house or talk to my friends; I was literally afraid of leaving my house. I didn’t want to eat, and I got headaches and stomachahes, and countless sleepless nights. I never had suicidal thoughts or negative feelings about life, but I didn’t want to leave my room some days, and I did thought more than once if I weren’t better for me not to wake up anymore. I associated those symptoms to natural depression, but I thought that some PTSD was present there…and I read your article today, and it makes perfect sense.

    It’s been six months now, and thank God I feel better, but my anxiety is still there, all the time, and unexpected, exactly as you describe it! If there’s something that reminds me of the trust he violated (I thought he was my best friend, apart from being my fiance), I get a literal physical pain that strikes me in the chest. I get increased heartbeat, my face gets red and hot, especially in the forehead, nose and cheeks; I get sleepy, sweaty and nauseous, and I want to cry and run. Sometimes I get dizzy and I feel like fainting, and I would like to just sleep for a thousand years to remove pain, or be hit in the head to have amnesia. It’s actual pain.

    Thanks for sharing, there are many of us who feel like you all around the world. It will get better, I promise.

  • disqus_eCqzv40tmu

    …I’m guessing these tears & bawling outbursts as I read through this is affirmation of what I feared. I’m so sorry you had/have to go through this, as I’m in a similar (won’t dare say the same, as we all feel differently), seemingly sinking ship right now. Every reminder is reliving it & it’s so unbelievably painful; I’m terrified of dealing with this for the rest of my life. I hope I find the help/peace that I need sometime soon, & I wish the same for you. <3

  • Luis Filipe

    “Don’t tell someone you love them if you don’t.”
    This. So much this.

  • Shanon K.

    Thanks for this post. It describes me completely. It’s nice know I’m not alone. It’s been almost a year but I relive the moment it happened and the immediate feelings every single day. We are still very close friends, but it’s so difficult holding on to the past while they believe we have both moved on. Can’t tell them how I feel. I have developed PTSD and emotional trauma since the breakup due to my Borderline Personality disorder and my dependency. My greatest fear is watching them love someone else while we continue to be close friends. This is the most pain I have ever experienced in my life and it has not improved. I fear how they may feel if they were to ever discover how our breakup has affected me. I’m still young but I feel hopeless and full of grief, guilt, sadness, and the pain of a shattered heart. I am stuck in a loop of reliving memories and intimate moments and things we have shared and done together. I’m unable to properly open up to family and friends; physical contact makes me feel sick and there are so many things that trigger my immese anxiety. It has hurt my work life as well as schooling. Have you learned to deal with your thoughts/pain? Do you think it will get better?

  • NIkita Kumar

    Thanks for the post i found it kind of motivational and helpful .. I am trying my best to deal with it.. i think its the best post on a traumatic break up.

  • Brittany de Wit

    Reading this article and seeing the comments made me realise that it’s not only me going through this and that there are people out there who understand where you’re coming from. My break up was pretty recent aswell it wasn’t a long relationship, only 4 months ,but we couldn’t be seperated and literally did everything together. A couple of days ago she broke it off cause she said that she felt guilty going out and enjoying her life whilst in a relationship and that she wanted to focus on her life. She suffers from depression and she has for years. Everyone in her family uses that as the reason for her treating me like she does. I know having depression js not her fault but i honestly just don’t feel like it is right to use that as a reason why you do certain things. At first she was kind and caring then these last couple of weeks she has been cold and distant. And i felt and still feel guilty cause I keep asking myself if I did something to her to make her act this way. I know i had my faults and shouldn’t have done certain things. But i felt like i was lead on by a person after opening up and starting to have really strong feelings which was hard for me cause my dad left when i was little and eventhough my mum remarried I still couldn’t understand why my dad had left. I opened up about my whole life just for her to throw it back in my face. I can’t sleep, I’m constantly sick, I get anxiety when I think about ever seeing her again i constantly have this shake in my one hand (i dont know if its related to the break up but it started right after) and i know it sounds dumb but i have this actual physical pain in my chest when i think about it all. Every memory and thoughts involving us makes me cry and sob everywhere I go something reminds me of her. And i have bad habits of when trying to get over things and feelings I drink and go out and do self destructive things. I don’t want to out my mum through it but I know she sees that I have changed and I can see she feels helpless and afraid of something happening to me i feel so stupid telling people about it all or talking about it all the time but its all i can think of as soon as i’m alone it hits me harder than ever. She seems to be moving on and her family seems to blame me for the break up. I just can’t deal with the guilt and the pain anymore.

    • London

      I am sorry you are going through a tough time. I know break ups are difficult. It sounds like there was a strong attachment and it will take some time to get over it. What made me want to respond to you is the part about guilt and pain. It is something I can relate to. I have suffered from an unimaginable amount of guilt and had a terrible burden placed upon my shoulders and I thought it was just something that I had to live with but I assure you that it does get better even though it comes in waves. What I learned is that you have to grieve, then move on from it because living in guilt solves nothing. Your guilt just shows that you have a huge amount of empathy and a big heart. You are a good person. And chances are it wasn’t entirely your fault. One other thing I also heard that helped release some of my own guilt was whether or not these were my values or society’s values forced upon me that made me feel guilty? For me it was partially society’s values and not entirely my own. It made me reevaluate things.You are only human and entitled to make mistakes and there is beauty in that. It is ok to fall down (its part of life) but just don’t stay there. Find the positive from this situation even though it may be tough and think of what you are grateful for even if it is something small. This may be a wonderful opportunity to grow into a stronger person. And all the love you felt towards your ex significant other you should redirect towards yourself. Love yourself and treat yourself like you do. Know that you are entitled to happiness. In the mean time, stay away from alcohol because that is only temporary relief and will make your anxiety and depression worse in the long wrong. Perhaps go to a therapist and do things that are healthy and positive that you enjoy or exercise and spend time in nature and maybe volunteer somewhere. Keep yourself busy. Everything happens for a reason and you will be fine.

      • Brittany de Wit

        Yeah…. I do have a big heart and sometimes people take advantage. Things are going a bit better its almost a week later. I have been keeping busy with work and such. All my friends say she will be sorry she left but facts are is that she changed and with that we changed into something bad. I wish her the best but in my heart i can say that i dont want her anymore losing her made me see lots of things that i need to change.

  • Dan gee

    I was in the same state as you too Austin but mine ended in a break up worse than death

    It all started when a friend introduced me too this girl as she just broke up with her previous boyfriend we chatted on the phone and wrote text message to each other till 1 fine day my girlfriend then decided that we go for a group date with her friend initially thought no were kind of awkward as we just met each other for the very 1st time but with time we are starting to adjusting to each other and knowing that she just broke up with her previously I gave her room to be herself but the next she 3 week I truly tasted the so call sweetness before the faithful event which cause our eventual breakup
    Which involve my parent saying that my then girlfriend was not suitable for me

    After that horrific event just as shauni stated I experience flashbacks, extreme distrust of my parent , avoidance of anything related to the event, self-destructive behavior this thing keeps on haunting me for 6 years on and even until now I still feel it in my very vibe

    It happen when I was 20 years of age

  • Austin Moore

    I had a girlfriend when I was 12 for 2 weeks and we brokd up didn’t date another girl for 2 years got back together with her after 2 years with not one other girl…..her we parents us forced to break up 3 months later when they went too visit Romania (did I mention she’said Romanian) still I was only 14…… I was sure that I loved her then I didn’t try for another girl for a while but I found myself movin on but not forgetting about her I talked to a few girls kinda dated but not much really even though I didn’t have confidence issues …..but then 2 years later the morning after my dog died I was all smiles because I had gotten a dm on instagram from a girl that had deleted all her social media 2 years ago… it was her she had just made an instagram and saw mine and had too message me because she missed me… I thought she forgot about me…… she told me she had a wet dream about me (our relationship ever since we were middle schoolers was all open doors no secrets despite the long silences) and when she seen my insta she couldn’t believe how much I’d grown up. As soon as I told her I still had feelings for her it was game on, by by virginity… we were different, I was a rough country boy,

  • Dsnap

    I am so glad you wrote this article. I thought I was crazy with all the pain and suffering I still go through 10 years later after horribly breaking up with my x from college. She meant so much to me and I still love/hurt over her. It’s hard, and may sound crazy but I still want her back to make the hurt go away. I’m not going to go into the details about why we broke up cause that would just lead to more pain but let me just say, a love like that, doesn’t seem like there’s any coming back from.

  • FLUMMOXED2

    I think I have PTSD from the break up with my ex. It was just over one and a half years ago and was totally a surprise to me.
    We had sex the night before and I remember asking her if we were OK. She said we were. The next day after work, she broke up with me. There were some problems, but none i thought were deal breakers.
    10.5 years together and two kids and she walked away and into the arms of another man.
    I’m still dealing with the pain and it’s coming out as anger.
    I need help.

    • Steve

      I know how you feel, I was also 11 years in a fantastic relationship with a woman that I adored, we had a few ups and down but nothing major, we relocated 2000 miles away as she wanted to be near her family, we moved, set up home got jobs, everything was going our way.
      A week after valentines day this year (2016) like you, after sex the night before she told me she dont love me anymore and wants me gone, It hit me like a train

      Its been 8 months now and I am really really struggling to come to terms with it and hurt like hell

  • Samantha Harris

    You know, at the time that you were writing this, I was going through this very thing, and I wasn’t aware of it. My breakup was so bad, that I have to leave the area. I can’t stay here. I’ve experienced the very things that you have described, and I’m thankful that you were transparent enough to share your story. Now that I know I’m not strange, I feel like I can move on.

    • degree180

      You aren’t strange at all, so many women go through this. It’s just that it’s considered “crazy” so nobody speaks about it. Writing is therapeutical. Write down your feelings and know that you are not alone. Xx

      • Samantha Harris

        I used to journal a lot, then I got out of it. I’m starting again, as it is very healing. I was raised by a group of women who hated men, and I was taught that you were supposed to be independent and emotionally detached. I’ve never felt this hurt before, but it’s a lesson learned. Thanks for reaching out. I’m so glad I found this article. This, and a few other things that happened today, have kind of given me a sense of direction with regards to all of this.

        • degree180

          If you wind up writing something that you are proud of– why don’t you shoot it to us for publication? Email: davidt@degree180.com and tell him that Candace told you to send it through x

          • Samantha Harris

            Thank you, I’d love to do that. Wow, much appreciated. I write a lot, so I will eventually be putting this down on paper. Have a great evening.