In those under the age of 30, heartbreak is becoming very common; problems in relationships and breakups are often the first most stressful event that young adults go through. And in those people whose temperament and psychology makes them vulnerable, such stress can lead to clinical depression, anxiety and often suicidal thoughts.
It’s difficult to know exact numbers, but a conservative estimate is that about 25,000 people commit suicide and die every year in our country because of issues related to love and heartbreak.
Those between the ages of 16 and 29 are the most vulnerable.
Psychologically speaking, when you fall in love, your mind and your brain becomes emotionally merged with the other person—it is as if there is an entity called “us” , you and the person you love. The other person has become like a part of your own self. Love makes you feel that the other person “completes” you. Now, if a person’s self esteem isn’t good to begin with, or if he/she becomes too emotionally dependent on the other person, then the end of a relationship can devastate a person so much that they feel life is not worth living.
Research shows that romantic love can become addictive and the loss of romantic love and rejection causes the same changes in brain chemistry that is seen in physical trauma.
Unfortunately, many sensitive people who struggle with insecurity, often unconsciously choose unstable relationships, and sometimes unconsciously co-create a emotionally abusive relationship with the other person. Insecurity issues are amplified when we are in an intimate relationship.
This unstable and emotionally toxic relationship can further weaken self-esteem, leading to depression and anxiety. This depression and anxiety then makes a person more dependent on their partner and, even though the relationship is unhealthy, they feel unable to break up and exit the unhealthy relationship because of over-dependence on someone else to make him/her feel good about life.
Suicide is never a rational decision and it is extremely complex.
Sadly, most people in our country believe that there must be an understandable and reasonable cause for the suicide. And so you read about police investigating the cause of suicide. This investigation invariably leads to finding blame with a person or people who have emotionally hurt the suicide victim.
Often, those named in the suicide note are held responsible for the death.
As a psychiatrist, I feel this misunderstanding of suicide is a national shame and is not helping us save lives. Asking the police to investigate the cause of suicide is like asking the police to investigate the cause of a heart attack. The only role for police should be to rule out homicide and foul play.
Once they have done that, then it is the job of psychologist to help the family move past blame and to heal from the tragedy. Answering why a person committed suicide is not that simple. The same life situation evokes different responses in different people.
How could a young person with so much promise kill himself or herself? He/she seemed fine. There must be someone else who made her or him take such a drastic step , is the thinking of family and friends left behind
What are the psychological and deep emotional reasons that make a person get into and stay on in a relationship with an abusive person?
What makes a person dependent on another for their self-esteem and happiness to the extent that they feel like life is not worth living without the other?
What happens for the person to not see their own power and autonomy in moving on and changing their life?
How does clinical depression worsen and finally lead to suicide?
These are the questions that must be explored, understood and answered.
The reasons for suicide are often a complex interplay of temperament and brain chemistry, of childhood insecurities and events that shaped self esteem, of the level of insecurity in intimate relationships, and the relative inability to respond to a stressful event in a healthy manner, of lifestyle, and disappointments, emptiness, frustration, loneliness and thwarted ambitions.
Yes, boyfriends and girlfriends can be cruel and emotionally abusive. But if we are to prevent further tragedies then we must go beyond looking for villains and simple explanations.
We should stop the witch hunt that invariably follows a suicide: Did someone shout at this person? Did someone reject them? Did the parents scold them? Did a girlfriend or boyfriend break up with them and say something cruel to them and so on.
I have worked with parents who have lost a child to suicide and have been wracked by needless guilt because they scolded the child and the child committed suicide.
When you have a wound, even a gentle breeze will hurt your skin. The same is true of the mind.
Any stressful event can precipitate suicide in an emotionally vulnerable person. The solution is to offer support and get professional help for anyone who is going through significant emotional stress and turbulence.
To the families and friends suffering from heartbreak, support them in this time. Take their pain seriously. Do not hesitate to seek professional help from a pscyhiatrist or psychologist, especially if they are experiencing the following:
– Becoming more moody, angry, irritable
– Feeling sad a lot or crying for no reason
– Eating too much or too little
– Sleeping more than usual or much less than usual
– Becoming very nervous and scared and not socializing with people
– Very dependent on their girlfriend/boyfriend to make them feel good about life
– Using alcohol excessively or drugs
– Problems in other areas of life, like profession and career
– Reducing contact with their friends
– Thoughts or conversations about ending life, or about giving up everything
Also, anyone who talks about suicide should be taken seriously, and seek professional help.
If you are reading this and suffering from the excruciating pain of heartbreak, and even remotely considering suicide, please remember that your life is precious and important. Don’t sacrifice it for this, a love that claims your life is not really love.
You will find real love again.
Until then, don’t isolate yourself. Speak to your friends
Stay active and take care of eating welll, and try to get rest
Do not hesitate to talk to a therapist or a psychiatrist if you feel too sad or low and have any thoughts of suicide.
Remember above all, this feeling will pass, and no relationship is worth ending your life.
Heartbreak is an opportunity to first heal and then to use the insights from this journey to become secure and to connect with genuine happiness and love.
Dr. Shyam K. Bhatt is a psychiatrist, integrative medicine specialist and writer. His new book How to Heal Your Broken Heart is exclusively available on the Juggernaut app here