Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at how long anxiety typically lasts after a breakup.
The truth is that anxiety after a breakup is likely to last for quite a while. Usually our clients start to feel better around day 21 but they usually don’t “get over” the breakup for at least six months.
How did I figure that out?
Well, I did it by looking at three specific categories,
- Pinpointing What Science Has To Say About The Matter
- Looking At What I’ve Learned From Internal Polling With Our Audience
- Leveraging The Three Timelines
Let’s dive in and I’ll show you what this is all about.
Most Of Our Clients Are Anxious
I’ve made it no secret that on average, most of our clients have what is considered an anxious attachment style.
Now, recently I’ve had a lot of fun with the anxious attachment style. I’ve even went as far as crafting an anxious attachment style death wheel. Does this look familiar?
This is the typical experience of someone with an anxious attachment style going through a breakup,
- You want someone to love you
- You find someone
- You make the entire person your focus
- You start to sense they are going to leave you
- Then they actually do leave you
- You do everything to win them back
- It doesn’t work out so well, and you feel so alone
- You wonder if this is always going to happen
And then we wind up at the top of the wheel again.
Can you see how that can make someone incredibly anxious?
But here’s the thing. There’s nothing in that vicious cycle that shows you how long it’ll typically last. For that we actually have to look at some science.
The Science Of Cortisol
This is what the neurochemicals of a relationship typically look like during the honeymoon period of a relationship,
Here’s what they look like in the middle of a relationship,
And here’s what it looks like at the end of a relationship,
You see that huge spike? Yep, that’s cortisol.
Also known as the stress hormone. In fact, you can easily argue that all anxiety finds its roots in cortisol. Now, we are all about finding a timeline that we can use to help us understand how long anxiety after a breakup will last.
Turns out Dr. Jamie Lee might have already done that for us.
According to Dr Lee, it can take three to four hours for your cortisol levels to return to normal after a stress response (like an argument or high-stakes meeting), but if your levels have been high for some time, it can take up to six months to balance them out.
You know what typically can keep your cortisol levels stuck in an elevated state?
So, my big argument is that most of the clients I have studied over the years, men and women who desperately want their exes back, are likely to keep their cortisol in an elevated state because they can’t stop thinking about their ex.
Social media doesn’t make it any easier as well.
You log on to Facebook or Instagram and you know what you constantly see?
Updates with your ex which triggers your cortisol which keeps it in this highly elevated state. So, right away we have one data point. We know that usually if you are in a situation where your cortisol is in this elevated state it’s going to take you 6 months before your anxiety comes back to earth.
Keep that in mind as I continue to roll through the other data points.
Internal Polling On When You Start To Feel Better
Earlier this year I was writing an article on the no contact rule. Specifically, I wanted to learn at what point it started to get easier for our clients. The results were interesting,
- 6% of clients said it was easier immediately at days 1-7
- 13% at days 7-14
- 41% of clients said it started to get easier around days 14-21.
- 14% Days 21-28
- 7% Days 28-35
- 19% Days 35-45
The two percentages that jump out to me there are:
- 41% start to feel better around day 21
- 19% start to feel better around 35-45
This doesn’t mean that anxiety went away but it does give you an idea of a potential minimum point at which it does start to dissipate.
So, we have two data points thus far.
- We know that cortisol will likely stay in an elevated state of six months.
- We also know that our clients’ anxiety will likely start to feel better as early as 21 days
But to account for the dynamic nature of breakups we must also look at the three timelines theory.
Looking At The Three Timelines:
Do you know what the most popular question I get asked on Ex Boyfriend Recovery is?
Do I have a chance of getting my ex back?
Do you want to know what the second most popular question is?
How long is it going to take me to get over this breakup?
Neither question has a simple answer because the nature of breakups is that every single situation is unique. The best you can ever do is give people ranges. So, if you operate with that assumption then the statement I’m about to say makes a lot of sense.
Not all breakups are created equally and not all breakup anxiety is created equally. You are a lot more likely to feel anxiety longer in a longer term relationship than you would in a short term relationship.
Thus, I’d like to put forth the following formula.
There are typically three types of breakups.
- Small Breakups (A relationship lasting less than 9 months)
- Middle Breakups (A relationship lasting between 9 months and 2 years)
- Big breakups (A relationship lasting between 3 – 10 years)
The anxiety you are going to feel in each of this situation is going to be different.
- Big breakup (3-10 years): Roughly 6 to 12 months for comprehensive healing.
- Middle breakup (9 months-2 years): Approximately 3 to 6 months to fully recover.
- Small breakup (less than 9 months): Likely 1 to 3 months for the pain to subside.
Notice that in both the middle and big breakup scenarios it’s taking you often 6 months to recover. However, with smaller breakups the window shrinks and you can theoretically “get over” the anxiety in as quick as three months.
Though it’s all relative. If you spend every day of those three months obsessively checking your exes social media account then that’s likely to keep your cortisol in an elevated state which prolongs your timeline.
Putting It All Together
I gave you three large data points to figure out this equation.
- Cortisol, if it’s in an elevated state, can last as long as six months
- Generally our clients start feeling better around days 21-45 in no contact
- I showed you the three timeframes.
So, how do we make sense of this complicated equation.
Well, here’s how my mind processes the data.
- About The Cortisol: I think 6 months is a very accurate timeframe of how long it can take breakup anxiety to go down but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone.
- About The Three Timeframes: I think the three timeframes proves that, for small breakups at least, people can get over those quicker.
- About the Polling: The thing that I believe always sets our version of no contact apart is the fact that we are really focusing on ensuring our clients outgrow their exes. So, yes, you can get over your anxiety quicker if you have a mind to do it.
Ultimately your ability to get over your anxiety depends on your discipline when it comes to outgrowing your ex. If you don’t buy in to that then likely your cortisol will be in that elevated state for as much as six months.