Heartbreaks are never easy. The emotions are real and being affected by them is natural. However, breakups can be turned into a positive experience.
“A very important part of adapting to a breakup is to make some meaning from the experience,” David Sbarra, a professor at the University of Arizona who researches social relationships and health, said, according to Inverse.
Yes, breakups are linked to poor mental health. Mental problems such as stress, depression, and an overworked brain are likely to follow post-breakup.
But people often experience mental health issues before and independent of relationships and breakups. “The break-up might be a lever — but there are often many other contributors to mental health challenges,” John Oliffe is a professor at the University of British Columbia and the founder and lead investigator of the university’s Men’s Health Research Program.
In a paper published in the journal Qualitative Health Research, Oliffe, and his team focused on men’s way of processing breakups. According to the study, men after a breakup may be up to 8 times more likely to die by suicide compared to women who go through a breakup.
“We looked at men’s break-ups with the hope of getting upstream toward suicide prevention by helping men build better relationships,” Oliffe said, as per the outlet.
In the study, 47 men were interviewed who had experienced a separation, divorce, or breakup. The men had been in relationships ranging in duration from 4 months to 28 years. Interestingly, in 49 percent of the break-ups, the move was partner initiated.
Disturbingly, about half of the participants reported having suicidal thoughts and more than half also said they experienced mild to severe depression.
The men opened up about how they dealt with their breakups and a pattern emerged. Men who had the most positive, personal transformation after ending a relationship were those who learned from the pain, and changed the negative aspect they contributed to the relationship, the study found.
As a consequence, narrative therapy could prove to be helpful for people going through a breakup, according to Oliffe. This particular therapy works on the principle that people can use their life stories as a way to add meaning to situations in life and move away from problematic narratives. The idea is to adapt healthier storylines and understand that every individual’s perspective is different.
“We can ruminate on particular narratives that are unhelpful,” Oliffe said. “These can be unhelpful for making the transition out of the relationship because guys can get stuck in retrospectives.”
Speaking of rumination, scientists believe a new technique called metacognitive therapy (MCT) can help combat depression and anxiety, often associated with overthinking or rumination. “We discovered some time ago that a particular style of thinking appears to make people vulnerable to anxiety and depression and trauma and is also responsible for keeping anxiety and depression going,” Adrian Wells, a psychology professor at the University of Manchester, said.