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Men Have an Increased Risk of Mental Illness After a Breakup: Study

Man looking sad while sitting on a couch
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More often than not, breakups are a time of distress, especially when you thought you’d found your person. Feeling blue after heartbreak is pretty normal, but what does it mean when that cloud of sadness turns into something more? According to a new study from the University of British Columbia, after a relationship ends, men are more susceptible to struggles with mental illness — such as anxiety, depression and suicide.

Researchers interviewed 47 men from Canada and Australia to find out about their experiences during their breakups. Almost all of them (96 per cent) shared that they felt instances of “anxiety, depression and suicidality” both during and after their relationships ended.

Related: 10 breakup warning signs you can’t ignore.

Do men have poor coping mechanisms for their emotions?

Participants opened up about how they felt extremely low after their failed relationships, and some felt unsure of what to do. One man, Chuck, a 33-year-old, felt betrayed after his 10-year marriage came to an end: “I felt like my life was over. I was very confused,” he said. “This is the person who knew everything about me, I felt very comfortable in front of, maybe too comfortable that I let my negative sides out, I felt betrayed.”

It was also discovered that during the relationship, participants had an “overreliance on partners and maladaptive coping strategies” such as downplaying problems.

“Stereotyped masculinity plays a role in how men react to a broken relationship,” said Dr. John Oliffe, one of the study leads. “For example, men’s uncertainty for how to articulate and problem-solve in the relationship context resulted in many men isolating rather than reaching out for help. Most men in the study were battling with transitions in the partnership — like bereavement, parenting or infidelity — and their primary goal was to avoid conflict.”

Related: Eyes wide shut? Research explores what we don’t want to know about romantic partners.


The path forward post-breakup

The study’s conclusion points to a need for men to realize what they’re feeling when their relationships are falling apart or ending, in order to reduce harm and start engaging with resources to help themselves.

Some men did use a variety of healthy coping mechanisms post-breakup such as exercise and self-help books. Others eventually opened up by confiding in friends and co-workers.

Whether it’s going to therapy or reaching out to friends and family for support, learning how to better communicate and express emotions with romantic partners is key to building better relationships.

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