You were not expecting this. Your life has come to a standstill. Other people dismiss it as “teenage drama” and expect you to get over it. It’s frivolous and temporary, they think. It’s a transient phase in every teenagers’ life. Is that why you underestimate and dismiss your own feelings? You shove them away somewhere deep inside, plaster a smile on your face and hold your shoulders high, ready to face the world, as if it doesn’t affect you at all. But because of the termination of a romantic relationship in your life panic, fear and anxiety have set in. You’re not the same person anymore, but nobody can see it. The damage is not physical– there are no fractures or bruises, it is intangible.
Romantic relationships during adolescence are not uncommon. Dr. Wyndol Furman, an editor of the book ‘The Development of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence’ described adolescence as, ”a roiling emotional caldron whose major fuel — more than parents, peers or school and almost as much as those things combined”– is romance (Gallagher Nov 2001). While romantic relationships can provide companionship and joy, the termination of such a relationship, whether expected or unexpected, can cause emotional tribulations in the lives of the affected. Feelings of sadness and depression may be expected to occur in such a scenario, but feelings of panic or anxiety, especially when a person has never experienced it before, can be surprising and scary (Robboy).
An example of an who individual who expressed their surprise to the anxiety they experienced after their breakup on a relationship-anxiety forum, gives us insight into what it could feel like: “I also think I’ve been experiencing mini-anxiety attacks but I don’t really know. The only other time I’ve had an anxiety/panic attack was during a rough patch in my life. I don’t know how to control this especially since I’m a student who is fairly busy all day long” (upsided0wnn, 2017). Their words delineate confusion and doubt regarding the reality of her anxiety. Adolescents may experience this confusion because they are not informed about the symptoms and prevalence of different forms of anxiety disorders. Another crucial factor that may cause this confusion could be the assumption that symptoms are normal and what is expected after ending a romantic relationship. They may feel that being sad after a breakup is typical, but since anxiety after a breakup is less heard of or anticipated, they could be hindered from recognizing it.
Perhaps recognizing the cause of anxiety after a breakup could facilitate adolescents to anticipate it, and thus seek help or treatment. Sadness post-breakup can sometimes be an awaited emotion, and root cause of sadness may not impossible to decipher either. However, since the cause of anxiety may not be that easy to pinpoint, it could overwhelm them. Caroline Robboy, founder and executive director of a counseling organization in Philadelphia called Center for Growth Inc, explained why anxiety might be experienced after a breakup. She explained that since the discontinuation of a significant relationship engenders a major transition in a person’s life, they are bound to move into at least “some degree of unknown territory.” She further elaborated that anxiety is an “extremely normal feeling to have when facing the unknown.” This unknown territory could be in the form of not being able to rely on their partner for “social engagement, financial support or even life advice”, which was previously a major constant in our lives (Robboy). When such familiar feelings and habits are abruptly taken away from us, anxiety could set in.
Adolescents may be in vulnerable phases– they are fascinated with experimenting and romance. Some fall in love with the idea of love and want to be swept away in a whirlwind of movie-like romance, while some fall prey to popular culture that focuses on just having a good time. Either way, mental health should always be given importance. It is easy, especially at this age, for emotions to feel blurry and overwhelming, but being aware of mental health issues that might arise in certain situations could help get intervention and prevention at early stages.
Anxiety after a breakup • r/Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://www.reddit.com/r/Anxiety/comments/5fecoi/anxiety_after_a_breakup/
End of Relationship Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from http://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/tips/end-of-relationship-anxiety
Gallagher, W. (2001, November 12). Young Love: The Good, the Bad and the Educational. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/13/health/young-love-the-good-the-bad-and-the-educational.html