Did you know you can get PTSD from a break up?
Many of us would have heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder commonly experienced by Veterans.
It’s a psychological disorder that produces great distress in individuals. Less well-known, however, is Post-Traumatic Growth; the experience of bouncing back after traumatic break ups and doing far better than before.
Break ups suck. That’s usually the case regardless of who calls it quits. Sometimes, because of the circumstances around the break up, the separation can be particularly traumatic, resulting in depression and anxiety as individuals try to piece together a life on their own again. Most people go through a rollercoaster of emotions and that’s usually the case no matter how calm and collected a person is. The Kubler-Ross Cycle doesn’t exist for nothing.
I’m a firm believer in rolling with your emotions and just feeling and experiencing them. Break ups are tough and you’re usually emotionally vulnerable afterwards. Suppressing those feelings are never a good idea. I’ve got some serious badass girlfriends who are superwomen in life and work, but they’ve been floored when a relationship has broken down.
And, that’s totally normal.
We’re human and we have fragility. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Vulnerability is our power. Nothing can beat you when you’re being true to yourself.
I usually suggest women take time out to “feel” their feelings. Cry. Rant. Vent. Hurt. It’s OK. If you need to stay in bed for a few days then that’s acceptable too. But, there’s always a limit to how long you should let a break up break you. While it’s important to feel those feelings, you need to eventually be proactive in taking steps to make a better life for yourself. Problems arise when individuals get stuck in one area of the Kubler Ross cycle and, as therapists, we have to gently help people move through.
So, what is Post-Traumatic Growth?
Post-Traumatic Growth essentially means bouncing back better than before. It’s linked to resilience, showing strength in the face of crisis and overcoming extreme hardship. We study Post-Traumatic Growth in a branch of psychology called Positive Psychology, an area that focuses on human flourishing instead of pathology.
It’s important to look at this phenomenon from the context of a break up because some break ups simply feel soul destroying. And at the time, individuals feel like they’ll never recover. It seems ludicrous to suggest that they could even do better than before they broke up.
Most people have a list of dreams and plans they want to do, but relationships rely on compromise so some of these dreams may be put aside to focus on coupledom. Break ups allow individuals to focus on the things they couldn’t do while being part of a twosome.
Once they get their breath back and overcome the shock associated with separation, individuals can start slowly, and at their own pace, writing down the things they weren’t able to do during the relationship that they’d always wanted to do. Perhaps it’s learning a new language or travelling to Paris. Whatever it is, reframing the journey as one of opportunity can be helpful. Not easy, but helpful in making steps towards a new life.
My suggestions to experience Post-Traumatic Growth post-break up are:
- Feel your feelings and work through them.
- Take time out to get your breath back.
- Seek help if needed.
- Write a list of all the things you want to do, but couldn’t when part of a couple.
- Create a mood board of how you’d like your life to be.
- Start ticking off some of those items on your list.
- Write a narration of how you’d love your life to look like in six months or a year from now and make proactive steps towards it.
- Know that time heals.
If you’re going through a break-up right now, remember this, time heals all wounds. You can and will feel better. You could even feel greater than you ever did before.
About The Author :
Sarah Tottle is a business psychologist and psychotherapist who specialises in careers and relationships. She’s the author of several books, including Be Your Own Coach: Your Pocket Guide and Daily Doses of Inspiration: Now is Your Time to Shine. She frequenly writes for the media and is an advocate for empowering women to live their most fulfilling lives. She runs the brand agency, Infomatrix PR, with her best friend. Check out her website or follow her on Instagram.