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“Healing from Heartbreak, the ADHD Way”

Love hurts. Love scars. For those of us with ADHD, traits like rejection sensitive dysphoria, big feelings, and obsessive thinking prolong and worsen the pain of a breakup. After a heavy dose of heartache, I’m here to share my tips for moving on.

Mending a broken heart. Heartbreak. Image by Victoria Chizhevskaya / EyeEm via Getty Images
Mending a broken heart. Heartbreak. Image by Victoria Chizhevskaya / EyeEm via Getty Images

Breakups cut deep in the ADHD heart. Our rejection sensitivity intensifies the hurt of being dumped nearly to the point of physical pain. We’re also prone to obsessive thinking. A breakup takes over our lives, interrupting our ability to concentrate on anything else. A sad song replays in our heads, heartbreaking and inescapable. There are constant reminders of our ex everywhere we look — because in the ADHD brain, everything is connected to everything else.

We overshare our heartbreak with friends, incessantly rehashing the details of the breakup until no one wants to hear about it anymore. We may be unable to stop crying about the breakup at work, even though we know how unprofessional it makes us look.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that ADHD worsens and prolongs the pain of a breakup, even leading to depression and low self-esteem. Getting over a breakup is way more difficult for us than it is for most neurotypical people.

If you’re going through heartbreak, here are a few things you can do to ease the pain and move on:

How to Get Over a Breakup When You Have ADHD

1. Make a feel-good/cathartic playlist. Include happy songs that get you into a better frame of mind; independence manifestos about not needing your ex (think: “I Will Survive”); or sad songs that allow you to cry it all out. Singing releases dopamine (a chemical in short supply in the ADHD brain), which will make you feel good, too.

[Get This Free Download: Manage ADHD’s Impact on Your Relationship]

2. Journal obsessive thoughts. This is an extremely effective way to get hurts or worries out of your head and break up the loop of painful thoughts you may be stuck in.

3. Have a funeral for your breakup. Having a moment to eulogize the relationship and say goodbye is one way to kickstart the healing process. After that, gather up mementos and put them out of sight. (If you can get them out of the house, even better.) Other ways to get closure:

  • Write an unsent goodbye letter.
  • List all the ways the relationship was not right for you.
  • List what you’ve learned and hope to bring into your next relationship.
  • List the qualities you will seek in a future partner.
  • If it makes sense and both parties can handle it, meet with your ex for a goodbye coffee.

4. Hold off on destroying mementos right away. It may be tempting to burn photos, letters, and other items that remind you of your relationship, but wait awhile if you can, as you may regret impulsively destroying them.

[Read: Save the Date! Dating Advice & Strategies for Adults with ADHD]

5. Spend lots of time with friends. If you don’t have any close friends, you now have the free time to make some. Join an activity or a group for like-minded people. Try new things or learn a new skill. Or, look to the existing pool of people you know — the friendly person from yoga may be a great new friend.

6. Make time for things you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself knowing that you’re taking control of your life and doing things that make you feel joy, rather than only grieving the end of a relationship. To that end, adopt a new self-care practice, be it a relaxing skin care routine; journaling; hot baths with candles; or meditation and mindfulness. Self-love is so important for those of us with ADHD, as we receive more negative messaging about ourselves than do neurotypical people, which often causes our self-worth to tank.

7. Cry. Cry as much as you want. Cry for days, weeks, or months if necessary. Give some structure to your crying sessions if you need it, like five or ten minutes of scheduled crying per day. We have big feelings, so grieve the relationship for as long as you need to in order to move through the pain.

8. Avoid dating right way. It might be tempting to jump into a relationship with the next person who comes along, but if you do not take the time to heal, you will bring your pain into your new relationship. You want to show up as the best possible version of yourself when you’re in a new relationship, so take the time to grieve so you can properly move on.

9. Remind yourself of your strength and resilience. I bought myself a sunstone necklace after one of my relationship breakdowns to remind me that I make my own sunshine. I also have the word “brave” tattooed on me, which I got after another breakup, to remind me that I would go on, even if my relationship did not.

Breakups are among the most painful experiences we endure as human beings. The loss of a person we loved, and the future we imagined with them, crush the soul. The best way through a breakup is to allow yourself to feel your feelings, and to treat yourself with compassion.

Do your best to remember that love is not a finite resource. There’s plenty to go around, and you will find it again.

How to Get Over a Breakup with ADHD: Next Steps

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