By Chris Seiter

Published on December 6th, 2023

Encountering an ex-partner, especially unexpectedly, can trigger a range of emotional and physical reactions. One such reaction is shaking or trembling, a physical manifestation of the intense emotions and memories associated with the past relationship.

So if you are looking for a quick summary of how to deal with this, listen up!

When you see your ex and start shaking, it’s like your body’s freaking out because of all the stress and memories. It’s totally normal, though. It just means you’re dealing with some heavy emotions. Just take deep breaths, and give yourself time to chill and get over it.

But as you probably realize, seldom is there one answer that fits all.  So I decided to cover this topic in more detail. This post delves into the various reasons behind this phenomenon and offers advice on how to manage it.

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Why Do I Start Shaking When I See My Ex: Understanding the Emotional and Physical Response

Understanding the Shaking  or Trembling Response

  1. Emotional Stress: Seeing an ex can reopen old wounds, leading to emotional stress. This stress activates the body’s “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline, which can cause shaking.
  2. Nervousness and Anxiety: Post-breakup interactions can be awkward or nerve-wracking. If the breakup was recent or contentious, seeing your ex might trigger anxiety, manifesting physically as shaking.
  3. Residual Feelings: Strong residual feelings, whether love, anger, or hurt, can cause an intense emotional response. This emotional turmoil can translate into physical symptoms like shaking.
  4. Trauma and PTSD: In cases where the relationship was toxic or abusive, seeing your ex can trigger trauma responses similar to PTSD, where shaking is a common symptom.
  5. Physiological Reaction to Memories: Our bodies remember emotional pain. Encountering your ex can trigger memories of both good and bad times, causing a physiological reaction like shaking.
  6. Unresolved Issues and Closure: Lack of closure can leave you with unresolved feelings. Seeing your ex might bring these to the surface, causing a physical reaction.

Managing the Reaction

  1. Deep Breathing Techniques: When you start shaking, practice deep breathing. Inhale slowly for four counts, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold for four. This can help calm your nervous system.
  2. Mindfulness and Grounding Exercises: Practice mindfulness to stay grounded in the present moment. Techniques like noticing five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste can be helpful.
  3. Seek Professional Help: If the reaction is severe or debilitating, consider seeking help from a therapist. They can provide strategies to manage anxiety and work through unresolved emotions.
  4. Building Emotional Resilience: Engage in activities that build your emotional strength, like exercise, hobbies, and spending time with supportive friends and family.
  5. Journaling: Writing down your feelings before and after you see your ex can provide insights into your emotional state and triggers and help you with calming your nerves.
  6. Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can improve your overall emotional and physical well-being.
  7. Positive Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to build your self-esteem and confidence. Remind yourself of your strengths and worth.
  8. Avoid Unnecessary Encounters: If possible, avoid situations where you might run into your ex until you feel more emotionally stable. It is natural to feel wound up when you bump into your ex.  Shaking and trembling is not unusual.
  9. Set Boundaries: If you must interact with your ex, set clear emotional and physical boundaries. This can help you feel more in control and less anxious.
  10. Understanding and Acceptance: Work towards understanding and accepting the end of the relationship. This acceptance can reduce the intensity of your reaction over time.
  11. Consider Temporary Distancing: If you share mutual friends or spaces, consider taking a temporary break or creating a plan to minimize unexpected encounters.
  12. Coping Mechanisms for Trauma: If your reaction is related to trauma from an abusive relationship, seek specialized therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).


Shaking when you see your ex is a natural response to a complex mix of emotions and memories. It’s a sign that your body and mind are processing the aftermath of the relationship. By employing coping strategies, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help if needed, you can manage this response and work towards emotional healing and stability.

Remember, healing is a journey, and it’s okay to have moments of vulnerability. Don’t think less of yourself if you feel the shakes or start trembling around your ex. With time and the right support, you can regain your emotional equilibrium and move forward with confidence and strength.

15 FAQs on Reacting Physically When Seeing an Ex

  1. Why do I shake when I see my ex?
    • Shaking is a physical response to emotional stress. Seeing your ex can trigger a flood of emotions and memories, causing an adrenaline rush that results in shaking.
  2. Is it normal to feel anxious around an ex?
    • Yes, it’s completely normal. Anxiety can stem from unresolved feelings, nervousness about the interaction, or memories of the past relationship.
  3. How can I calm myself when I see my ex?
    • Practice deep breathing, focus on your surroundings to stay grounded, and remind yourself that it’s just a temporary reaction. Over time, this response should diminish.
  4. Why do I feel physically sick when encountering my ex?
    • Emotional stress can manifest in physical symptoms like nausea. It’s your body’s way of responding to the intense emotions associated with seeing your ex.
  5. Can seeing an ex trigger a panic attack?
    • For some people, especially if the relationship was traumatic, seeing an ex can trigger a panic attack. It’s important to practice calming techniques and seek professional help if this happens.
  6. Why can’t I speak properly when I bump into my ex?
    • The stress of seeing your ex can cause your mind to race, making it difficult to find the right words. Take a moment to breathe and collect your thoughts.  If you start to shake or tremble, just know that it will pass.
  7. What should I do if I start crying when I see my ex?
    • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. If you’re in a public place and feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself and find a private space to compose yourself.
  8. How long will I react this way when I see my ex?
    • The duration varies for each person. As you process your emotions and heal from the breakup, these reactions should gradually decrease over time.
  9. Should I avoid places where I might see my ex?
    • Temporarily avoiding places where you might run into your ex can be a part of your healing process. However, don’t let it restrict your normal activities for too long.
  10. Why do I feel angry when I see my ex?
    • Anger is a common emotion post-breakup, especially if there were unresolved issues. Recognize this as a normal part of the healing process.  And when anger rises up within us, we can find ourselves shaking to the core.
  11. Is it okay to walk away if I see my ex?
    • Absolutely. If seeing your ex causes discomfort, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation. Prioritize your emotional well-being.
  12. What can I do to prepare for a potential encounter with my ex?
    • Have a plan in place, like a calming breathing routine or a quick exit strategy. Being mentally prepared can help you manage your reaction.
  13. Can talking to a friend help when I see my ex?
    • Yes, discussing your feelings with a friend can provide comfort and perspective. It helps to share your experiences with someone you trust.
  14. Should I talk to my ex about how I feel when I see them?
    • This depends on your relationship post-breakup. If you maintain a cordial relationship, you could consider expressing your feelings. However, prioritize your emotional safety first.
  15. How can I move past these intense reactions?
    • Focus on healing from the breakup. Engage in activities that boost your confidence, spend time with supportive friends, and consider professional counseling if the reactions are overwhelming.
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Chris Seiter	

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