How long do feelings last after a breakup?

Breakups can be devastating. When a relationship that was once filled with love comes to an end, it often leaves people with intense feelings of sadness, anger, regret, and loneliness. These feelings can linger for weeks, months, or even years after the relationship ends. So how long do these feelings typically last? And what factors influence how quickly people can move on?

The duration and intensity of post-breakup feelings vary significantly based on the individual circumstances of the relationship and breakup. However, most research suggests that acute grief and distress tend to peak around 3-4 months post-breakup and gradually improve over the course of the first year. Some people may move on more quickly, while others can experience lingering attachment for several years or more.

Typical Post-Breakup Emotions and Their Duration

Breakups frequently involve a rollercoaster of difficult and uncomfortable emotions. Some of the most common include:

Sadness and crying spells

Feelings of profound sadness, emptiness, and longing for your ex are very common in the initial weeks and months following a breakup. Post-breakup sadness is often accompanied by frequent crying spells and a persistent low mood. This acute grief reaction tends to steadily improve after about 3-4 months. However, some sadness may linger at diminishing levels for a year or longer.

Anger and bitterness

Anger at a former partner, sometimes tinged with a sense of injustice or betrayal, frequently emerges post-breakup. Bitterness and resentment may be directed at the ex or at the circumstances that led to the relationship ending. Anger often peaks around 3-6 months post-breakup and then gradually fades over the following months. However, a lower level of residual anger may persist in some people for a year or more.

Frustration and irritability

The emotional turmoil of a breakup can make people feel on-edge, frazzled, impatient, and quick to annoyance in the weeks and months following a split. Exhaustion from sleep troubles can also play a role. Irritability tends to follow a timeline similar to that of anger, progressively improving after the 3-6 month mark.

Anxiety, agitation, and feeling on edge

The sudden loss of a relationship can trigger feelings of anxiety and frequent worry about the future. Sleep disruptions, change in appetite, and feeling emotionally volatile are also common with post-breakup anxiety. Anxiety may involve nervous tension, panic attacks, or a constant feeling of being on edge. For most, anxiety peaks around 2-3 months post-breakup and then slowly declines.

Loneliness and feelings of rejection

With the loss of companionship and intimacy, profound feelings of loneliness frequently follow a breakup. Some may also wrestle with painful feelings of rejection if they were broken up with against their wishes. Both loneliness and rejection feelings tend to follow a gradual improving trajectory over the first year.

Fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating

The emotional anguish of a breakup is often physically and mentally exhausting. Many people struggle with fatigue, memory and concentration problems, low motivation, and reduced productivity for weeks or months post-breakup. Brain fog and exhaustion tend to dissipate around the 4-6 month mark.

Loss of appetite or overeating

Appetite changes are very common after a breakup. Some people lose their appetite and lose weight, sometimes significantly. Others may overeat or seek out comfort foods to self-soothe their sadness and loneliness. These appetite disturbances tend to resolve within 4-6 months.

Sleep disturbances and insomnia

Disruptions in sleep are also extremely common post-breakup. The emotional anguish, anxiety, anger, and sadness people often experience frequently interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. For most, sleep gradually returns closer to normal over 2-4 months.

Obsessive thinking about the ex

It’s very common to experience constant anguished thoughts about an ex in the aftermath of a painful breakup. Some people may develop obsessive thought patterns where their ex dominates their mental focus. With time and concerted effort, these obsessive thoughts tend to diminish around the 6-9 month mark.

Factors That Influence the Grieving Process After a Breakup

Many different factors influence both the intensity and duration of feelings post-breakup, including:

Who initiated the breakup

Being broken up with against your wishes is linked to more intense feelings of rejection and a prolonged grieving process. Being the one to end things is associated with a more rapid emotional recovery.

Level of commitment and future plans

Breaking up after making major commitments like moving in together or getting engaged results in stronger attachment and prolonged grieving. The greater the future plans made, the harder it is to move on.

Length of the relationship

Longer relationships become deeply embedded into one’s life and identity, making them harder to recover from. Breakups after very brief flings are easier to bounce back from.

Presence of abuse

Escaping an abusive or toxic relationship leads to different emotional trajectories, often involving immense relief. However, trauma bonding can still complicate things.

Availability of social support

Strong social support accelerates emotional recovery while isolation and loneliness make it harder. Social support provides both distraction and comfort after a breakup.

Personality factors

Personality traits like resilience help people recover more quickly, while those prone to anxiety, rumination, and perfectionism tend to struggle more.

Preexisting mental health issues

Preexisting depression or anxiety can make it harder to cope with a breakup and prolong the grief process. The breakup may also trigger relapse.

Surrounding circumstances

Major life stresses like losing a job, deaths in the family, or moving to a new place can complicate and extend post-breakup grief.

How To Cope and Recover Faster From a Breakup

Breakups always take time to recover from, but there are things you can do to help yourself through the process in a healthier way:

Give yourself permission to grieve

Experiencing sadness, crying spells, and mood swings are normal. Allow yourself to feel and process the loss. Avoid stuffing down emotions.

Lean on your support system

Spend time with close friends and family who can listen and offer comfort. Their support can be invaluable during the healing process.

Avoid isolating yourself

It’s easy to want to be alone when depressed but isolation tends to make things worse. Make efforts to stay socially engaged.

Talk to a mental health professional

If sadness or anxiety post-breakup become disabling or linger for many months, see a therapist. Counseling can help.

Channel your anger constructively

Rather than obsessing over an ex, shift angry energy into healthy outlets like exercise, hobbies, or creative projects.

Practice self-care and stress relief

Focus on sleep, nutrition, relaxation practices, and caring for your physical and mental health. This helps facilitate healing.

Avoid using alcohol or drugs to cope

While tempting to numb the pain, substance use often backfires by fueling anxiety, depression, and unhealthy fixation on the ex.

Cut off contact if needed

Seeing an ex’s social media or communicating with them can reignite feelings. Take a complete break from contact if you need it.

Make meaning out of the experience

Once some time has passed, reflect on what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown in order to find significance in the breakup.

Be patient with yourself

Give yourself permission to take all the time you need to grieve and recover. There is no perfect timeline. Feelings fade gradually.

When To Seek Professional Help for Post-Breakup Depression

It’s normal to feel sad and go through a grieving process after a relationship ends. However, if the depression becomes severe or persists longer than 6 months, it’s a sign that professional mental health support may be beneficial, such as:

Suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors emerge

Breakups can be a suicide risk factor. Any suicidal feelings warrant an evaluation by a psychiatrist or therapist.

Depressive symptoms are disabling

If feelings of worthlessness, despair, or emptiness make it extremely difficult to function in daily life, seek help.

Anxiety severely impacts quality of life

Panic attacks, constant worry, and generalized anxiety that persists beyond 6 months merits consultation with a professional.

Unable to care for basic needs

If self-care habits like hygiene, eating, or sleep are drastically impaired, it indicates depressive symptoms are severe.

Alcohol or drug abuse develops

Coping through excessive drinking or drug use can signal the development of a substance abuse problem requiring treatment.

Feelings of hopelessness linger

Pervasive pessimism and negative thought patterns for more than 6 months may benefit from counseling and medication.

Thoughts of harming the ex emerge

Breakups can generate intense rage. Any violent fantasies require immediate intervention to prevent harm.

Unrelenting focus on the ex

If preoccupation with the ex persists beyond 6-9 months, counseling may be needed to treat possible underlying issues fuelling obsession.

Existing mental illness gets worse

Breakups often exacerbate disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Seek help if this occurs.

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Breakup? The Typical Timeline

While there is no universal “correct” timeline for healing post-breakup, research has uncovered general patterns in how long it takes to recover based on the duration of the relationship:

Relationship Length Time to Recover
Less than 6 months 1-3 months
6 months – 2 years 3-6 months
2 – 5 years 6-12 months
5-10 years 1-2 years
Over 10 years 2-4 years

As shown, people in relationships under 6 months tend to recover within 1-3 months, while long-term relationships of 5-10+ years can take 1-4 years to truly move on from. However, the process is highly variable based on individual factors. With concerted effort, professional support, and reliance on healthy coping strategies, it is possible to accelerate emotional recovery.


Breakups are always hard, but the pain is usually not permanent. Allowing yourself to fully grieve, utilizing your support system, practicing self-care, avoiding isolation and unhealthy coping mechanisms, and seeking counseling if needed can all help facilitate the recovery process. For most, the hardest part comes in the first few months. Feelings gradually become less intense over the course of the first year post-breakup. With time and patience, healing is possible. Focus on taking things one day at a time and be kind to yourself.

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