The World Federation for Mental Health formally announced October 10th as World Mental Health Day in 1992. It has been more than two decades since we have a designated day for mental health but very little has changed at the ground level. The demeaning glance towards mental illnesses, the shaky infrastructure around mental well-being and the overall ignorance involving mental health remains true. However, with increasing conversations about mental health in the mainstream, especially by celebrities and influential individuals, it is slowly pushing the taboo lens away and helping the society prioritise mental well-being. 

World Mental Health Day: Heartbreak and Mental Health


Heartbreak and Mental Health

In 2023, the theme for Mental Health Day calls Mental Health as a Universal Human Right, putting it right at the crux of human existence. Mental health truly is a vital component of overall well-being, and it can be profoundly affected by life events, including the experience of heartbreak. 

Heartbreak, often associated with the end of a romantic relationship, is an emotionally tumultuous period that can have a significant impact on one’s mental health. Research suggests that individuals going through a breakup are at an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Approximately 30% of people experience clinical depression and nearly 32% of people experience anxiety following a breakup. 

World Mental Health Day and Heartbreak


Today, we spoke to experts Dr. Sid Warrier, a Neurologist and Ekta Dixit, a Relationship Coach, learning about the ways in which heartbreak influences mental health, the signs of it and different strategies for coping and recovery.

Connection between Heartbreak and Mental Health  

Ekta Dixit explains the correlation between heartbreak and mental health as, “When someone goes through a heartbreak, the first thing that happens is the person goes through five stages of grief because there is a disassociation from that relationship and there is this void. You suddenly feel a sense of insecurity and you’re not sure what tomorrow might bring. One of the biggest problems that causes stress and anxiety is uncertainty. This anxiety can lead to depression and in some cases to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

Ekta Dixit speaks about heartbreak on World Mental Health Day


She further adds, “Trauma of any kind can create a dribble effect on your body that can cause a lot of mental health issues. it’s just not stress and anxiety that takes place immediately. A person might suddenly start emotional eating or stop eating.There is a sense of hopelessness and self deprecating behaviour. The emotional turmoil that a person goes through can lead to mental health issue like anxiety, depression, and if it’s an extreme situation of a heartbreak these can sometimes lead to suicidal tendencies.”

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Different reactions to Heartbreak

Different people react to heartbreak differently due to a complex interplay of individual differences such as our personalities, our attachment styles, our social surroundings and our past experiences. In fact our sense of self also plays a role in our reaction to heartbreak. Dr Sid Warrier explains the dynamics of heartbreak and the sense of self. He states, “Heartbreak happens when a relationship ends and your sense of identity gets challenged. In a relationship when you’re in love, you look at yourself as a part of the other person and you look at the other person as a part of you. When there is a breakup, suddenly the other person is no longer in your life and your sense of identity is shattered. Who are you without the other person?”

Dr. Sid Warrier speaks about heartbreak on World Mental Health Day


“Different people react to heartbreak differently because their sense of identity is different. The sooner you can reform your identity, the faster you can recover from a heartbreak. Some people really struggle with it because their identity is so dependent on the other person that they feel empty and so the hangover from a relationship lasts longer while others can reform their identity much quicker.”

The Impact of Heartbreak

Heartbreak is characterised by intense emotional pain and sadness. The most common emotion experienced during heartbreak is grief and when this grief remains unattended, it can lead to long term mental health consequences. 

Dr. Sid Warrier explains how grief impacts our mental health, “Any kind of long-term grief which is also called complicated grief can lead to mental health problems. Grief is a normal phenomenon, it is a way in through your brain deals with loss. Loss can be of any kind, maybe the loss of a loved one or loss of anything that is precious to you. Grief is a way in which your brain adjusts to this new reality of the person or thing no longer being in your life, which is normal.”

“However, complicated grief is when the grief does not get resolved and leads to other physiological consequences such as weight loss, disturbed sleep and sometimes depression. Complicated grief becomes a psychological issue and it needs to be managed- it needs therapy, it needs counselling and sometimes it also needs medication. Heartbreak is a common cause of complicated grief where somebody is unable to recover from and it can disturb their mental well being.”

Coping Mechanism and Treatment 

Dealing with heartbreak can be a tough job. Sometimes with conscious practices and sometimes with external help, one can deal with heartbreak better. Ekta Dixit lays out certain techniques that can help one deal with the loss. She suggests, “Heartbreak can lead to mental health disorders and mental health issues as well. It could be something as small as not being able to enjoy the mundane tasks or it could be something as grave as neurosis or psychosis.”

“Journaling is extremely helpful in dealing with heartbreak. It is more of a self help work that a person can start with. If you think that the self work is not helping, you can, of course, take help and deal with the situation better.”

“One could go for psychological therapies also known as counselling. There are group sessions as well for people going through a heartbreak. You can gradually start with this. A Counsellor or a Therapist can help you by using certain strategies and tools such as REB or CBT. If the situation is extremely grave, one can go to a psychiatrist who can help you with certain antidepressants. They can aid your healing process.”

“One of the things that they absolutely need to be a part of is social groups. These social gatherings can actually help you overcome loneliness. Loneliness can lead to many issues sometimes even leading to depression or suicidal tendencies.”

Heartbreak has a deep impact on mental health, leading to a range of emotional and psychological challenges. However, with the right support and coping strategies, individuals can navigate this difficult period and emerge stronger and more resilient. It is important to remember that seeking professional help is a sign of strength and not weakness.