Loneliness After a Breakup: Here’s What You Can Do About It

23 Feb ‘23
5 min
Annemarie Andre
Reviewed by psychologist Eva Rüger
On the left there's a person spending time alone at home and being sad, on the right a person is stepping into a bar having fun with other people surrounding him.

Whether things ended on good terms or bad ones – after a breakup, many of us feel lonely. What can you do to get over a breakup and feel better again?


In this article, we’ll look at what happens to our bodies when we’re heartbroken and why we have to readjust to life alone again following a breakup. OpenUp psychologist Eva Rüger also gives some tips for getting back on your feet after a breakup and building up your network.


What happens in our bodies when we’re heartbroken?


Anyone who’s ever had a broken heart knows that it isn’t a pleasant experience and it drains our energy – whether we can’t stop crying or get stomach aches. But why exactly do we have such a bad physical response to this? 


Using fMRI-Scans, scientists have discovered that heartbreak activates the same areas of the brain as physical pain. This means that a broken heart isn’t that different from a stab wound. 


What’s more, it throws off our hormonal balance. Following a breakup, our dopamine levels drop rapidly and stress sets in. In order to cope with this, our bodies initially release adrenaline, which eventually gives way to the stress hormone cortisol.  


“The end of a relationship is also a type of loss, which means you can compare it to the grieving process,” explains psychologist Eva Rüger. Not only are you grieving for your ex-partner, but also for your shattered hopes and dreams. “We grieve for the previous relationship, but also for the loss of the future we were imagining with our partner.”


Since the breakup process is so personal, your needs can vary greatly. Phases like shock and numbness, despair, sadness, anger, and anxiety, but also looking towards the future with optimism are often part of the breakup process.


On a side note, men take longer to get over breakups than women. A study by Binghamton University (New York State) found that women tend to be worse affected by breakups in the beginning – however, they are better at processing the end of relationships and this means that they are able to move on faster. Meanwhile, men are more likely to try and suppress their emotions, meaning they bear the weight of the loss for longer. 


📚Further reading: Why Do People Cheat? 3 People Open Up, 1 Psychologist Explains

Symptoms of heartbreak

Physical symptoms

For some, heartbreak takes a toll on the stomach, while others complain of sleeplessness and circulation problems. Those affected often feel like they’ve been struck down with a physical illness.


Mental symptoms

After a breakup, many people tend to wallow. These spiralling thoughts just won’t stop and this leads to a loss of concentration and subsequently a drop in performance.


Diminished joy

Heartbreak can cause symptoms of depression. Those affected are more pessimistic and complain they lack motivation.  


Changed social behaviour

Those affected often withdraw and have no interest in being around people. However, it could also show up in the form of other changed social behaviour, for example increasing aggression towards family, friends and work colleagues. This in turn leads to a feeling of loneliness.

These tips can help you to process a breakup 


1. Connect with your feelings


“It’s okay to grieve, to feel lonely and to need time to let go,” explains psychologist Eva. So, take that time to connect with your feelings, to reflect on the past and, more than anything, to respond to your needs. Think about what it is that you really need right now! 


“Make space for your feelings and process the events by writing about it, talking about it and, in this way, giving your feelings space.” If you don’t know how you’re going to get through this situation, it might help to focus on your strengths and how you’ve overcome previous challenges. 


2. Find a necessary distraction


Taking breaks is also part of the breakup process. “As well as feeling and processing your emotions, you’re also allowed to take a break from this by distracting yourself from time to time or having positive experiences alone or with your friends.”


💡This might interest you too: Why You Need Close Friendships (And How to Cultivate Them)


3. Do something nice for yourself


Moments of happiness and joy are important to counteract the above symptoms and to find your motivation again. Getting a new haircut or buying a new outfit might sound like a cliché at first, but it does help you to let go of the past and feel good about yourself again. Finding a new hobby can also help you to gain fun, new experiences. Do something that you’ve always wanted to try!



4. Keep an eye on your lifestyle


When your heart is broken, you might feel inclined to huddle under a blanket and eat loads of chocolate, but that alone isn’t going to help you in the long run. At times like these, you need the endorphins and serotonin that are released after a workout. Studies show that movement is one of the best ways to combat depression. 


5. Build up your network


“Your partner is often that person who’s always available and reachable. When that’s suddenly no longer the case, it initially leaves a hole,” explains psychologist Eva Rüger. 


“This means that it’s helpful to concentrate on the people around you who can give you help and support; who can listen to you and meet your needs.” A breakup might also be an opportunity to build up your circle of friends and acquaintances, refilling your tank with new, fresh energy.  


Are you finding it hard to get back on your feet again after a breakup and is it making you feel lonely? Then arrange a free introductory consultation with our psychologists to discuss your needs and experiences.