Breakup notes

As part of investigating the intersection between Romance and Depression.

  • From Najib et al.1:

    The relationship between normal sadness, grief, and clinical depression is complex. Although one might expect some shared neurocircuitry, these three states are distinct both in intensity and quality of emotional experience. Normal sadness is a triggered, self-limited emotional condition. Grief triggered by a loss or separation from a loved one is generally more prolonged and frequently involves depressive-type symptoms lasting from days to several months. With grief, many people experience depressive-type symptoms and then recover. However, grief is a major risk factor for clinical depression, so some unresolved grief episodes spiral into a true clinical depression (1–3). Whether grief is purely a precursor of depression or has a different quality needs further research. Of interest is that DSM-IV differentiates between depressive symptoms related to bereavement (V62.82) and major depressive disorder (296.xx), most prominently in the duration of post-loss symptoms needed to meet major depression criteria.


    We picked ruminating subjects because a ruminative way of coping with loss is a known risk factor for major depression (14, 15).

  • Davis et al.2:

    From the abstract:

    Associations between gender, age, emotional involvement, and attachment style and reactions to romantic relationship dissolution were studied in a survey of more than 5,000 Internet respondents. It was hypothesized that individual reactions to breakups would be congruent with characteristic attachment behaviors and affect-regulation strategies generally associated with attachment style. Attachment-related anxiety was associated with greater preoccupation with the lost partner, greater perseveration over the loss, more extreme physical and emotional distress, exaggerated attempts to reestablish the relationship, partner-related sexual motivation, angry and vengeful behavior, interference with exploratory activities, dysfunctional coping strategies, and disordered resolution. Attachment-related avoidance was weakly and negatively associated with most distress/proximity-seeking reactions to breakups and strongly and positively associated with avoidant and self-reliant coping strategies. Security (low scores on the anxiety and avoidance dimensions) was associated with social coping strategies (e.g., using friends and family as “safe havens”). Attachment insecurity, particularly anxiety, was associated with using drugs and alcohol to cope with loss.

    The paper begins:

    The dissolution of romantic relationships has been empirically associated with a variety of negative physical and emotional responses, ranging from anxiety, depression, psychopathology, loneliness, immune suppression, fatal and nonfatal physical illness or accidents, and decreased longevity to immediate death through suicide or homicide (see reviews in Gottman, 1994; Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001).

  • Primeau et al.3:

    [R]omantic breakups/concerns are among the top reasons listed for college students to seek university counseling services (Diemer, Wang, & Dunkle, 2009; Erdur- Baker, Aberson, Barrow, & Draper, 2006). Research related to potential interventions for use with students who have experienced a romantic breakup would likely be of immediate use to most counseling center staff.

External links

  • Breakup Recovery Guide. Despite the severe effects of breakups, prima facie it doesn’t seem like there is much to be done, which makes investigation here a low priority; from “Paid Guides about Breakup”:

    There’s also no magic cure to healing other than time and the mental willpower to follow the very common-sense and basic advice offered for free on this website. There’s a limit to how much you can really speed up the recovery, since the brain needs time to heal after the blow it’s received. It’s cliché, but it’s true that time really is the greatest healer. So you have to suffer through the pain to some extent no matter what you do.

    Of course, making this more well-known could still be important.

  • “What Happens After a Breakup?” on Pew Research Center’s teen dating report

  1. “Regional Brain Activity in Women Grieving a Romantic Relationship Breakup”. Arif Najib, M.D., Jeffrey P. Lorberbaum, M.D., Samet Kose, M.D., Daryl E. Bohning, Ph.D., Mark S. George, M.D. Volume 161 Issue 12, December 2004, pp. 2245–2256.

  2. “Physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to breaking up: the roles of gender, age, emotional involvement, and attachment style”. Davis, D. Shaver, PR. Vernon, ML. Personality and social psychology bulletin. 2003 Jul;29(7):871-84.

  3. Primeau, J. E., Servaty-Seib, H. L. and Enersen, D. (2013), Type of Writing Task and College Students’ Meaning Making Following a Romantic Breakup. Jnl of College Counseling, 16: 32–48. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-1882.2013.00025.x