Heartbreak is agonisingly painful. Young people in particular can feel like their world has fallen apart. However, psychologists have tips for dealing with heartache.
Is there anything more wonderful than being in love? For many people, it's the best feeling in the world. However, if you're floating on cloud nine with aeroplanes in your tummy, you're also at risk of a painful crash landing. If the person we love wants nothing (more) to do with us, or if they are an idol way out of our league, we find ourselves having to deal with the flip side - heartbreak.
There are lot of situations that can trigger heartache, including separation, an unhappy on-off relationship, a secret relationship with a married partner - or of course unrequited love. No matter what's behind it, heartbreak really hurts. We feel so sad, disappointed, hopeless and small that it simply knocks us for six. Loss of appetite, sleepless nights and difficulty concentrating are just the tip of the iceberg. Our dark thoughts can develop into true depression, and in the worst-case scenario they can even end in suicide.
Why is this? "Heartbreak has a lot to do with longing," says Berlin-based psychotherapist Inga Foucek. "The more we idealise the other person, the more we want to become one with them, the greater the risk of giving ourselves up and losing our self-esteem." This happens particularly often with young people. "Everything revolves around what the other person wants, and they forget themselves entirely."
Personal disposition naturally also plays a role. People who are already prone to depression, have low self-esteem and are mentally not so stable, suffer more acutely from heartbreak than strong people with plenty of self-confidence. However, once again it is the exceptions that prove the rule.
Find something to hold onto and strengthen your self-esteem
"It's important to find something to hold onto so that you don't fall into the void," emphasises Inga Foucek. The best examples are friends, a good social network or a meaningful activity, whether it's your work or a hobby. Time also helps heal the wounds. And in the psychologist's view, it's actually a good thing if disappointment turns into anger. "Anger makes you strong and stops you feeling like a victim," she says. "It helps us stop idealising the other person and enables us to cut ourselves off from them."
Setting boundaries is in fact one of the most important ways of overcoming heartbreak. Most important of all, however, is the knowledge that we are valuable in ourselves. "Believing in ourselves, recognising our own value, these are things we all have to learn," says Inga Foucek.
When professional help is necessary
However, some people remain stuck in their heartbreak and fall apart. When this happens, they should seek professional help. The same applies if they are thinking of suicide. The psychotherapist believes that extreme reactions like these are usually caused by other problems. Disappointment in love brings these to the surface in full force.
Healthy people are usually able to overcome heartbreak because, as Inga Foucek explains, "Our rational minds are able to gradually calm the storm of emotion and in time make it fade away altogether." This is why heartbreak can actually be an opportunity to grow. "Ideally, people come out of relationship crises feeling stronger."