Can a Breakup Lead to Depression?

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptive to change - Charles Darwin.

A breakup can cause stress. Stress can lead to depression.

Here's how:

First, the role of stress in the development, expression, and exacerbation of depression is well established. (ref 1-4).

1.  (Stressful Life Events, Chronic Difficulties, and the Symptoms of Clinical Depression - )

2.  (Major Life Events and Major Chronic Difficulties Are Differentially Associated With History of Major Depressive Episodes )

3. (Stressful life events, genetic liability, and onset of an episode of major depression in womenStressful life events, genetic liability, and onset of an episode of major depression in women.)

4. (Stress and depressionStress and depression. )

Major depression is one of the most common and one of the most disabling psychological conditions. The impairment resulting from depression is severe, not only because of the pervasive impact of an episode of the disorder on the afflicted individual’s life, but also because of the high likelihood that depression will recur, often repeatedly, over the course of their lives. So when a breakup happens to a person, if they aren’t somewhat prepared and resilient, that breakup can be a substantial pivot point in their lives that might adversely affect them for years. And if that relationship dissolution put them into a tailspin, how are they going to respond when struck by the additional slings and arrows of life e.g. death of their parents.

Stress also has a long term negative effect on circuits in the brain responsible for regulating emotions. (ref 5-7)

5. In stressful situations such as military training, US cadets report decreased ratings of pleasure in response to positive provocations
(The effect of stress on hedonic capacity.)

6. Women under acute stress produced by threat of shock show blunted reward responsiveness.
(Acute stress reduces reward responsiveness: implications for depression. )

7. Individuals reporting higher levels of stress in the recent past show reduced reward learning ( )

People who have stress over time can end up having their emotion regulation circuitry compromised causing it to take longer to recover from stressful events and get back to a normal baseline. (Prolonged Marital Stress is Associated with Short-Lived Responses to Positive Stimuli   That study had also shown that subjects were quick to feel negative emotions after the conditioned stimulus was presented and would stay in that stress state for longer. It’s like they’ve trained themselves to prefer emotional pain. They spend more time there so perhaps it seems most comfortable. And it’s like they dislike pleasure because when looking at pleasant stimuli, it would take them longer to make sense of positive images and when they did, those positive feelings were brief. Richie Davidson, the principal neuroscientist for that paper wrote that the untrained people are slow to recover and that they perseverate. Too much time thinking about the ex and feeling the stress of it repeatedly is won't make things better.

So recovering successfully after a breakup takes some skills. Not just for being able to bounce back, but skills to prevent sinking into the abyss due to the stress linkage to depression and the compromised emotion regulation circuitry.

Another contribution to depression the stress of a breakup can deliver is weakened reward circuitry. Fun becomes … funless.
(Increased Perceived Stress is Associated with Blunted Hedonic Capacity: Potential Implications for Depression Research

This is why marital stress is associated with a higher incidence of psychiatric disorders, in particular major depression. A person can’t move forward after a breakup if the tools for moving forward are compromised.

Depending on a persons background and history with adversity, a breakup might be the worst thing they’ve experienced so far in life and they haven’t the history or support to get over it.

People that don’t move forward after a breakup are usually clinging to a model of the world that no longer exists. They believe the ex is ‘the one’ and that their future is over without the ex. Some would rather die than change their beliefs. They focus on the past so much it becomes a habitually practiced skill. They get really good at feeling bad. That just puts them into a nosedive that can make escaping quite difficult, especially if they keep replaying old memories with strong emotions. “I cant get them back. They were the one. I miss him/her so much. I can’t live without them. I have no future without them. I think about them everyday".  That kind of thinking is not going to cultivate resilience.

Feel bad long enough and the ability to bounce back gets harder and harder because this thinking becomes more stable and automatized. They start to believe their own lies and cognitive distortions. 'I’m worthless, I’m garbage, nobody will love me like that again, theres nothing to live for, nothing is enjoyable, I’ve lost everything, the light has gone out in my life.’

Then with all this sabotage going on under the hood, they feel worthless and stop doing anything solution based. e.g consistently focusing and working on rebuilding a new life and better brain via meditation, strategies.

Now, if there are no new experiences, the hippocampus begins to shrink because there are no new memory formations.  Hippocampus is attributed with the consolidation of information from short term memory to long-term memory.  What happens with a hippocampus that decreases in size due to a lack of new experiences?  For this answer, a quote from Robert Sapolsky... "This structure plays a critical role in learning and memory, and the magnitude of the hippocampal volume loss (nearly 20% in some reports; see bullets. 8, 9, 10) helps explain some well-documented cognitive deficits that accompany major depression.'

8. Hippocampal atrophy in recurrent major depression.

9.  Depression duration but not age predicts hippocampal volume loss in medically healthy women with recurrent major depression.

10. Hippocampal volume reduction in major depression

Linda Graham writes ’Unless new experiences cause a rewiring of the old circuits, the patterns of coping we learned (even if they aren’t working) become our default responses to life’s set backs. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.’ - Bouncing Back- Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well Being. by Linda Graham, MFT

With all the continual stress and strain and focus on the past, their brain is helping them go deeper down a rough, painful, slow, sad road. More intrusive rumination, guilt, anger, sadness, shame, disappointment. It’s a habit. The ex is like a drug to the brain, the brain wants a hit of excitement so it goes to memories linked to pleasure, they start thinking of the past, pleasure is linked to the ex, that memory is brought forth and sometimes re-traumatize themselves by reopening an old unhealed unresolved wound and on it goes.

In Carol Dwecks book, ‘Mindset: Psychology of Success’, she writes about the difference in thinking between winners and losers. Winners have flexible mindsets. Losers have rigid, inflexible thinking.
What would happen to the car manufacturers or Apple if they stopped innovating? What happened to Blockbuster when it knew Netflix was coming down the line? Blockbuster held on to their same business model hoping patrons would still come in on a Friday night and pick up a VHS movie like always. Times changed, Blockbuster didn’t. Now they’re an example of how mental rigidity is a VIP pass to extinction. Ok almost extinction, there’s a blockbuster or two still around. In a nutshell, evolve or die. But it’s difficult if the evolve tools are compromised.

And that’s some of what’ can lead to depression with people that don’t get over a breakup. Although some folks  might have been off center before the relationship started and then the breakup might have been the tipping point that called out their emotional style. A person might not know they’re bad at getting over stuff until it happens.

The brain rewires itself in response to experience, so if bad experiences and thoughts of the past is the main food for thought, that’s going to result in an impoverished brain and its going to want stimulation. Time to bring in the internet, alcohol, drugs or gambling, maybe become destructive & nihilistic to feel control over something in life.  People with a tough time moving on post-breakup are ones that haven’t got any big future plans, just a past that they keep replaying which eats their future. It’s not their fault. It’s their brain. Without supportive themes and right attention to get back on track, they can suffer a gradual burn that slowly turns hope into ashes.

Then there are some that get PTSD after a breakup due to ending a relationship with a violent narcissist. This is going to create nightmares and flashbacks, the typical symptoms of PTSD.

And this is why neuroplasticity is a double edged sword. Experience shapes the brain and can change the brains structure and functioning. However, a change doesn’t always mean it’s for the better. You can use your mind to change your brain…for the better or the worse.

Fortunately, there are mental training strategies for engaging self-directed neuroplasticity to increase resilience and bounce back after a breakup. Also, well being is a skill that can be cultivated so there is lots of hope and escape routes that enable people to bounce back after a breakup and in some instances, achieve their own form of post-traumatic growth.

Most important is recognizing the prodromal symptoms of depression and doing something about it like taking lithium or doing mental training strategies to rewire the brain back to a more functional state.

‘Any new experience rewires the brain in some way. When we want to direct that rewiring - for example, when we want to rewire specifically for resilience-it’s necessary to carefully choose the new experiences that will help create that new neural structure and rewire old pathways effectively, efficiently and safely. We can do so by using self-directed neuroplasticity by directing focused attention on specific new experiences or on old patterns that we want to rewire.’ - Bouncing Back- Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well Being. by Linda Graham, MFT

Dr Joe Dispenza ‘Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself’ Review Chapter 3 Overcoming Your Body

The next chapter from the Dr Joe Dispenza book "Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself' is about overcoming your body

In this chapter Dr Joe Dispenza writes about how we get our body to be able to react and respond in ways that can be very difficult to overcome.  If I were to sum up this entire chapter in a few words it would be this:
think greater than how you feel.
This chapter starts with the words "You do not think in a vacuum'.  Every time you have a thought there is a biochemical reaction in the brain you make a chemical and then he goes on to describe how we're made of cells and that all cells have receptor sites on their exterior surface that receive information from outside their boundaries and then when there's a match in chemistry frequency and electrical charge between a receptor site and an incoming signal from the outside, then the cell gets turned on to perform certain tasks.
This is where these three ingredients( neurotransmitters, neuro peptides and hormones) blend together to create the cause and effect chemicals. These are known as the cause and effect chemicals for brain activity and bodily function and these things can connect to, interact with or influence the cell in a matter of milliseconds so think of neurotransmitters as chemical messengers primarily from the brain and neuropeptides as chemical signallers that serve as a bridge between the brain and the body to make us feel the way we think and hormones as the chemicals related to feelings primarily in the body.


Let's say you're trying to figure out how to get over someone or how to be able to get over the loss of a job or perhaps it's thinking about some kind of argument that you're about to have with somebody or maybe you get cut off in traffic.  Some kind of event causes you to feel stress.

If you start thinking about these stressful things your neurotransmitters would start the thought process in your brain to produce a specific level of mind.  Your neuropeptides would chemically signal your body in a specific way and you would begin to feel a bit riled up and then as the peptides find a way to your adrenal glands they would then be prompted to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and then you're definitely feeling riled up.

Chemically your body is ready for battle so as you think these thoughts your brain circuits fire in corresponding sequences and patterns and combinations which then produce levels of mind equal to those thoughts.

Once these specific networks of neurons are activated, the brain produces specific chemicals with the exact signature to match those thoughts so that you feel the way you were just thinking.

The brain constantly monitors the way the body is feeling and then based on the chemical feedback it receives it will generate more thoughts that produce chemicals corresponding to the way the body is feeling.  We begin to feel the way we think and then to think the way we feel.

This continuous cycle creates a feedback loop called a 'state of being' so this is how all three of these components mixed together to create this cyclic thinking and feeling as a state of being.

Dr Joe Dispenza writes a warning, 'when feelings become the means of thinking or if we cannot think greater than how we feel, we can never change.   To change is to think greater than how we feel.   To change is to act greater than the familiar feelings of the memorized self.'

Breaking the habit of being yourself consists of thinking greater than the way you're feeling.

This is using your thoughts to override the chemicals and the ingredients that you had been cooking in the past.  So you know the result of this cyclic communication between your brain and your body is that you tend to react addictively to these kinds of situations and you create patterns of the same familiar thoughts and feelings and you unconsciously behave in automatic ways and we become wired and mired in these routines.

This is how the chemical 'you' functions and this is why it can be difficult to break habits.

Then Joe Dispenza goes on to say ninety-five percent of who and what we are by mid life is a series of subconscious programs that have become automatic like driving a car, teeth brushing or overeating when we're stressed or worrying about the future or blaming our parents or not believing in ourselves or insisting on being chronically unhappy etc.

For example let's say that you had made a mistake in your life and you've been carrying that guilt about it or anger or sadness or shame and so every time you think that thought you're signalling your body to produce the specific chemicals that make up that feeling of guilt or anger or sadness or shame because you've done this so often our cells are swimming in this sea of guilt chemicals.  Then these receptor sites on the cells adapt so that they can better take in and process this particular chemical expression that of guilt or anger sadness or shame and then this enormous amount of guilt bathing the cells begins to feel normal to them and eventually what the body perceives as normal starts to be interpreted as pleasurable.  

What ends up happening is these cells become somewhat desensitized to the chemical feeling of guilt and they will require a stronger more powerful emotion from you, a higher threshold extreme to turn on the next time and then when that stronger hit of guilt chemicals gets the body's attention, your cells perk up at the stimulation and when each cell divides at the end of its life and makes a daughter cell, the receptor sites on the outside of that new cell will require a higher threshold of guilt or anger or sadness or shame or whatever that negative emotion is to turn that cell back on and so then the body demands a stronger emotional rush of feeling bad in order to feel alive so you become addicted to guilt by your own doing. This is why being able to overcome your body and the training that it's received can be a challenge.

Dr. Joe Dispenza then writes 'you have become unconsciously guilty most of the time.  Your body has become the mind of guilt so in a sense it's like training your body to live as a memorized chemical continuity.'

What we're seeking to be doing with breaking the habit of being yourself is interrupting and denying those cells or chemical needs by going contrary to those subconscious programs to be changing those emotional patterns.

This is sort of like going through a drug withdrawal or an addiction because once these cells are no longer getting the usual signals from the brain about feeling that guilt, they begin to express concern.

In the past your body and mind were working together feeling perfectly... bad,  but now since you're looking to be changing that, you'd no longer want to be thinking and feeling in the same way, your intention would be to produce more positive thoughts.   Even though the body is still revved up to produce guilt programs of the past,  because ultimately we're working with a system and so what you're looking to be doing is to make a slight change in the system.

This is where Joe Dispenza says to think of this as a highly specialized assembly line. Your brain programmed the body to expect a series of the usual parts that fit into this larger assembly and then all of a sudden you've sent it another part that doesn't fit in to the space with the old guilty program or part.  Once you've sent it another part that doesn't fit into this space where the old guilty part once did, then it's like an alarm goes off and the whole operation comes to a standstill and the cell starts behaving in these funny ways.

As a metaphor, its like the cells are saying:

'Hey what are you doing up there! We're supposed to be feeling guilty! We've been following your commands and demands for years! We've subconsciously memorized this program of guilt from those repetitive thoughts and feelings.  You want us to change but we can't have that!'

So he's voicing the idea about how the cells would be reacting and how they'd be responding when the cells would be sending an urgent message right up the spinal cord to the surface of the thinking brain.  In your brain there's a hypothalamus which is sending out a single saying 'hey we've got to make more of this chemical because we're feeling kind of depleted right now' so the hypothalamus signals the thinking brain to revert back to its old habitual ways.

The body wants you to return to your memorized chemical self so it influences you to think in familiar routine ways and so this is why when we're going through changes that you must put a stop to those old thinking patterns and when we do why we will say things like 'hmm this doesn't feel right.'
That's because in a sense we've taught ourselves to feel right about the wrongness of our habitual thinking.  So for true change to occur it is essential to have unmemorized your personality and then to recondition the body to a new mind. A challenge with trying to make that change is that by itself, conscious positive thinking cannot overcome subconscious negative feeling.

This is where Joe Dispenza talks about how ineffective positive thinking is. "I want to be clear that by itself positive thinking never works many so-called positive thinkers have felt negative most of their lives and now they're trying to think positively. They are in a polarized state in which they are trying to think one way in order to override how they feel inside of them.  They consciously think one way but they are being the opposite.  When the mind and body are in opposition, change will never happen." This is why these memorized feelings limit us to be continually recreating the past.

Most of us live in the past and resist living in a new future.  We become addicted to those familiar feelings and I'm certain you can think of examples of perhaps people that you know or conversations that you've had in the past where a person is continually talking about those glory days where there is nothing new happening in their life and so to stimulate feelings they'll reaffirm themselves from some glorious moments in the past.

Dr Joe Dispenza does an excellent job in illustrating and articulating the depth of the problem to overcome our bodies and how important that is by giving two interesting examples.   One is from this study that was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology which is about how strength increases with physical contractions and imagined muscle contractions.

One group would imagine lifting their finger up and down and another group would actually do that exercise.  After several weeks the results of the study showed that the people that had just imagined lifting up that finger got a twenty two percent increase in muscle strength even though they never moved a muscle.

The people that were lifting up the finger had a thirty percent increase in muscle strength.

The point is that by focusing your mind in ways that are much better for you and by thinking outside of your body can actually change your body.

Then he talks about how the quantum model asserts that we can signal the body emotionally and begin to alter a chain of genetic events without first having any actual physical experience that relates to that emotion so in other words we can imagine pretty cool stuff and as a result we can signal our genes to make new proteins to change our bodies to be ahead of the present environment.

For example let's look at a study that was done on people with diabetes.

One group of people have to watch this boring lecture and the other group of people get to watch a comedy and at the end of the day when they examine the gene sequences of the people that were laughing, they discover that these diabetics had altered 23 different gene expressions.

Just by laughing at that comedy show, their elevated state of mind apparently triggered their brains to send new signals to their cells which turned on those genetic variations that allowed their bodies to naturally begin to regulate the genes responsible for processing blood sugar.

So just by signalling the body with a new emotion, the laughing subjects altered their internal chemistry, that chemical of you to change the expression of their genes.

An additional example relates to bicep strength.  This was about people that were imagining doing bicep curls and people that were really doing it in real life and again the people that were able to just imagine doing that physical activity had shown an increase in strength.

So when the body has changed physically and biologically to look like an experience has happened, just by

thought or mental efforts alone.  This offers evidence that the event has already transpired in our reality and so the brain begins to upgrade its hardware to look like the experience has physically occurred.
Then the body has changed genetically or biologically and both are different without our doing anything in three dimensions so then this event has occurred both in the quantum world of consciousness and in the world of physical reality. This is how you can begin to be breaking the habit of being yourself by thinking greater than your body.

Click here for more about the Dr Joe Dispenza online course

Harvard Neuroscientist ‘Well Being is a Skill’

Harvard Neuroscientist ‘Well Being is a Skill’

“Well-being is fundamentally no different than learning to play the cello.” This is the conclusion that neuroscientist Richard Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have declared.

Well-being is a skill. (more…)

Joe Dispenza -Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself -Chapter One, Quantum You Review

Joe Dispenza -Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself -Chapter One, Quantum You Review

Review of Dr Joe Dispenza's book, 'Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself - How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One' -
Chapter One

This book is chopped up into three parts and the first two parts of it really are the foundation of it because it frames the importance and the value of the meditations that follow in part three.

If I were to sum up this first chapter in a few words it would be:

Thoughts + Feelings =  test-tube results

Let's unpack this ...

Chapter 1 - Introduces you to a bit of quantum physics and it's important to embrace the concept that your mind has an effect on your world.  The observer effect in quantum physics states that where you direct your attention is where you place your energy.
One of the reasons why people have a challenge being able to break away from the way that they are perceiving themselves in the world is because they're trapped in a Newtonian viewpoint of the world, this old belief system.
Descartes and Newton established a mindset that if reality operated on mechanistic principles then humanity had little influence on outcomes, but of course all that was blown apart when Albert Einstein produced the famous equation E = mc 2  demonstrating that energy and matter are so fundamentally related that they are one and the same.

So this directly contradicted Newton and Descartes while ushering in a new understanding of how the universe functions.

'Now after all that, here are a couple quotes from Dr. Joe Dispenza's book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself'
"if an atom is 99.999% energy and . 00001 % physical substance then we are more nothing then something."  and then he says...
"isn't it ironic then that we keep all of our attention on that point .00001% of reality that is physical?
Are we missing something?'
When understanding that we're living in this quantum universe, then you realize that spending time and energy on what is is really only spending your time on such an insignificant portion that it really doesn't have that much bearing on reality.
Let's look at a study that was done from one of the references in his book.

So they had these three groups of people that had each one of them holding a test tube with DNA and the reason that they use DNA is because DNA is more stable.  It's more rigid than cells and bacteria.

Group one:
had to hold DNA and feel strong elevated feelings of love and appreciation for 2 minutes
Group two:
Had to hold this test tube of DNA and they also were to be feeling strong elevated feelings and having the intention in their minds to change that DNA.
Group three:
Had to hold that test tube of DNA but instead of feeling any emotions, all they would do is just hold in their mind the intention to change that DNA

Group 1 was zero difference
Group 3 also had zero difference.
Group 2 had up to a 25% change in DNA.

What's most striking about is that they were able to wind and unwind the structure of DNA just with thoughts and feelings and with their intentions.

Science folks might want to take a look at the study here:

Take a look at this one line which says:

'sustained positive emotions such as appreciation love or compassion associated with highly ordered or coherent patterns in the heart rhythms reflecting greater synchronization between the two branches of the autonomic nervous system'.

In other words the quantum field responds not to what we want, it responds to who we are being.

Think about how you are allowing yourself to be in the world and what kind of feelings and emotions that you're producing day-to-day, habitually and they'll give you an understanding as to how things keep staying the same.

Let's give this more support with another quote from Dr Joe Dispenza's book.

"some of the common habitual thought patterns that people have might be I'll never get a new job, or no one ever listens to me or he always makes me feel angry or everyone uses me, I want to call it quits or my life sucks or it's my genetics I'm just like my mother, so if thoughts and feelings are producing events in the quantum universe then obviously staying in this same type of stagnant emotional state of being is only going to be producing more and more of the same"

Making Your Mind Matter - Online Course

 Let's talk about these words like never, no one ever, always and everyone.   These are known as universal quantifiers and so when when I'm coaching somebody I have them pay attention to the use of those kinds of words because in a sense they are false.

When someone says:

'everyone uses me',

That's not entirely true.   I'm sure there's somebody's that's not using you.  It only takes one tiny contradiction to make that whole blanket statement of these Universal quantifiers untrue

If you ever find yourself saying stuff like never, always or everyone, say it right back to yourself to prevent programming yourself with false beliefs.

For myself, I might think "I'll never get this video finished."   Then I just say that 'never' word right back to myself.


And then I realize that's a false belief!  Thinking unclear like that can have me locked into own thinking by using that kind of language.

'I'll never move on!'
'I won't ever get over this!'
'Everything is totally ruined!'
'Why is it always my fault?'

Those are lies that, if said loud enough and with some feeling, it's going to become part of you and built into your neurology and then you'll really believe those toxic lies!

Next I want to talk about this last sentence here where the example is 'it's my genetics, I'm just like my mother.'

There's a study called epigenetics.  Epi, meaning above and what that means is you can go above your genetics with your thoughts.  Our genes respond to the perception of the environment.  If you change your perception, you can actually change gene expression.

For more details on that check out the work by Dr. Bruce Lipton and his work on the Biology of Belief.

Let's get right back on track now that we've looked out some of the ways to begin breaking the habit of being yourself.  Changing the words and changing perception.

Now let's use this in more beneficial ways.

In terms of quantum creating, can you give thanks for something that exists as a potential in the quantum field but has not yet happened in your reality?

I'll go first and share a silly example.  Let's say that I picked some kind of weird bizarre notion that hasn't happened yet.  Let's say my goal is to win the Academy Award for Best Actor when I'm a hundred years old.  I haven't had any acting lessons but let's just use this as an example.

Now its your turn to think about how to apply that to yourself.

And before you do that, here is another quote that I think is valuable to share...

'In terms of quantum creating, can you give thanks for “something that exists as a potential in the quantum field but has not yet happened in your reality? If so, you are moving from cause and effect (waiting for something outside of you to make a change inside of you) to causing an effect (changing something inside of you to produce an effect outside of you).
When you are in a state of gratitude, you transmit a signal into the field that an event has already occurred. Gratitude is more than an intellectual thought process. You have to feel as though whatever you want is in your reality at this very moment. Thus, your body (which only understands feelings) must be convinced that it has the emotional quotient of the future experience, happening to you now.”
-Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself

When you think back to that test tube experiment where thoughts plus feelings produce test-tube results, that people were able to actually make shifts in DNA.  So when you recognize that this is real, that makes it a lot easier to be breaking the habit of being yourself by understanding the true value of being able to control your states of being in ways that are far more empowering for you and are a greater representation of the 'you' that you'd rather be.

Below is a video review of the Dr Joe Dispenza book, "Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One".

Download Your Free MP3 meditation based on the script from Dr Joe Dispenza's book 'Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself'