Heartbreak-Related Depression: Does It Exist?

heartbreak-related depression
Heartbreak, Self

A bad breakup leaves you depressed and anxious. So what's normal sadness and what's real depression?

"There is extra risk for young people. How deeply wounded someone is is tied to how much of their sense of self is rooted in the person that they're with. If a person's good feelings about herself and her identity are interwoven with the other person, then they're really submerged." 

Hindy also says the loss of a first love, as in Alexa's case, can be especially painful. 

"First love, the earliest love, has a special importance. You're less experienced, more insecure and more vulnerable. Certainly first love makes for greater intensity and greater loss." My One Great Love...Wasn't

But this doesn't mean that every young heartbreak leads to depression. While a patient complaining of Heartbreak-Related Depression could be suffering from a major depressive disorder, he said she is more likely to have an "adjustment disorder," one of the most common reasons people seek professional help. 

In an adjustment disorder, "the patient is dealing with some hurtful, stressful experience or life event, such as losing somebody or losing a job," says Hindy. "This can cause symptoms of anxiety and depression that are usually transient." If the severity of the symptoms is extreme, it is more likely to be a major depressive disorder, Hindy added.

Getting Treatment
On Facebook, Joel is leading the charge to bring attention to Heartbreak-Related Depression. 

"Let's all help to shed the light on [this]; it is a REAL & SERIOUS condition that affects millions, and it SHOULD get TREATED!!!" she wrote last week.

But seeing as the condition does not technically exist, how is it treated?

"If it's a result of a breakup, then I'd guide them through grief by writing, talking, and creating a ritual," says Tessina. "I do a lot of listening, because grief needs a witness."

Tessina also helps her patients to sort out their feelings about the split.

"I help them figure out what they're angry about, what they're sad about, and to help them see the relationship more realistically, recognize its flaws, and why it ended. After getting through the initial stages of the grief, we'd talk about what went wrong, and what the client can learn from the experience to improve future relationships." In certain cases, Tessina would treat the patient for depression. 

Hindy agreed that in addition to treating a heartbroken person's depression, he would also "explore the grief that's related to this particular loss and find out what happened in the relationship." 

And while "Heartbreak-Related Depression" may not technically exist, Hindy thinks Alexa has "coined a term." So does Piver. 

"I think it's a genius phrase—anybody who has ever been through it knows exactly what it means," she said. 


The only way to know if you have a serious condition that needs treatment is to talk to a professional. And even if you don't have a clinical disorder, talking to a therapist or coach can help you through a tough time in life. Many problems can be resolved in only a handful of sessions. Click here to visit ProConnect, YourTango's professional directory, and find someone who can help you.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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