When your heart is breaking, it really can feel like the world around you is crashing down. No pain you’ve experienced before has felt so excruciating or intense. You can’t think, concentrate, eat, sleep or breathe properly. It seems like someone has body slammed into you, leaving you feeling like you’ll never be okay again.
You weep, you sob, you watch Netflix until you’ve watched every terrible hallmark rom com it has on offer, and yet you just can’t get rid of that underlying nausea, or the cold sensation everytime you think of the relationship.
Breaking up is a bitch, and the feeling of heartache is a bigger bitch than karma itself.
I reckon I can safely state, with the utmost confidence, that the majority of people would rather swim with sharks than get their hearts broken. We try and avoid it at all costs.
Our brains and body genuinely reject breaking up, simply because there is no greater emotional hurt than heartbreak. That’s why we ‘take a risk’ by falling in love, and it can be really scary to open your heart to someone new in the first place.
The problem is, a breakup is actually really really bad for your health. You might think it’s all in your head, but it’s not. You truly are experiencing an illness.[Read: What To Do Immediately After A Breakup]
This is what science says happens to you when you have a broken heart…
Your brain is wired to believe you’re physically hurt
When your heart is broken badly, whether it be out of the blue or after a long-term relationship, or after a revelation – it can feel like someone has gutted you like a fish, your chest hurts, you get anxious, you feel sick.
The feelings are genuinely all-consuming. And whilst you’ve not actually been physically hurt, your brain is informing your body that you have been.
See, the bit of your brain that lights up when you’re hurt physically is the same area that lights up when you suffer “social rejection.” GAH.
The pain is real.
You will either get a lot heavier, or a lot lighter
Put away the weighing scales… Going through a break up will lead to one of two things: you either binge-eat or eat nothing.
It simply comes down to how you deal with pain. Some people comfort eat their emotions, using food as a distraction whilst they weep. The other half feel so anxious and nauseous, they can’t even think about eating, food becomes irrelevant as their appetite has completely gone.
For the latter, heartache can be an incredibly effective (but unhealthy) diet.[Read: 20 Ways To Get Through A Breakup Like A Boss]
You will have an identity crisis
It is remarkably common to wonder who you are after a break up, and have a bit of an identity crisis. When a relationship ends, our sense of self ends – especially if we felt very comfortable within a couple.
We’re left questioning who we are, because we’re not sure how this could have happened to us. Now you’re forced into a new phase of life on your own, you’ll have to decide the best course of action in becoming the best version of your ‘new’ self again.
You may be faced with depressive tendencies
Not exactly a shocker, but studies have proven having your heart broken genuinely does cause depression. Not just dramatic sadness, but our mental health may be severely effected. According to Psychology Today, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University studied 7,000 male and female twins and analysed their levels of depression and anxiety based on traumatic experiences in their lives.
The research found “losses that involved lower self-esteem were twice as likely to trigger depression as ones that involved loss alone. This
was particularly true of breakups that were initiated by the other partner or that involved infidelity or violence”.
Your stress levels will be through the roof
When you’re in love, your brain is filled with the happiness and pleasure neurochemicals, dopamine and oxytocin.
So when our hearts are broken, all those lovely, happy, pleasure chemicals disappear, leaving you alone with stress hormones. Your brain floods your body full of cortisol and epinephrine.
An overabundance of cortisol tells your brain to send too much blood to your muscles, causing them to tense up, ready for a quick getaway. But you’re not running anywhere, so you’re left with swollen muscles causing headaches, a sore neck and an awful heavy feeling in your chest.
Being heart-broken lowers your immune system, increases blood pressure and heart rate and causes significant muscle weakness, just to name a few.
Breaking up is like cold turkey withdrawal
Did you know that love is just as addictive as drugs? When you’re a cocaine addict cut off from the drug, your body goes through withdrawal. The same thing happens when you’re addicted to love and suddenly find yourself without it.
According to The Frisky, “areas of the brain are much more active after seeing the image of the ex. These same active areas are also afire in cocaine addicts who are experiencing physical pain while going through withdrawal.”
Fortunately, after a while your withdrawal symptoms will dissipate and you’ll feel like you can be a normal human being again.
You will want to wallow alone, but you shouldn’t
The WORST thing you can do when you’re fresh out of a breakup is to wallow in your pain, alone, torturing yourself thinking and thinking over every. last. detail. It feels like the last thing you want to do, but you need to get up, get dressed and get out of your bed ASAP.
Get those dopamine levels up again by surrounding yourself with friends, go treat yourself to a massage, do activities you love, distract yourself with films – literally do ANYTHING other than allow yourself time to think. Thinking will become your worst enemy during this time.
Remind yourself that you are worthy, attractive and fun by doing the things that make you happy. Even though it is SO hard to muster the drive to do so.[Read: Learning To Be Single: How To Adapt and Thrive After A Breakup]
Having your heartbroken is really really painful, and as we now know, that pain is REAL. But never believe that you are unlovable, unattractive or will never find love again. You will come out of the side of this so much stronger, I promise, even if it feels like you won’t right now.