The Pain Is Real: 8 Scientific Effects Heartbreak Has On The Body
When your heart is broken, it can feel like the end of the world. No amount of pain has ever felt so agonizing or concentrated. It’s like a giant hole was pummeled into your chest, with no hope of repair.
You cry, you scream, you watch Netflix until you’ve seen every documentary your subscription has to offer and yet nothing seems to smooth your heartbreak or soothe the longing you feel.
True Story: Breakups are a bitch, and heartbreak is a bigger bitch than f*cking karma.
I think I can say with pretty solid confidence, most people would rather get smacked in the face with a metal pole than get their hearts broken. It’s why we try to avoid it.
Our bodies literally repel being dumped because there’s no greater pain than heartbreak. The struggle is just so real, and the risks we take by falling in love are innumerable and terrifying.
The thing is, a breakup is really, really f*cking bad for your health. You might think it’s all in your head, but it’s not. You truly are experiencing an illness.
Here are eight scientific things that happen to your body when you have a broken heart, proving it’s just about the worst thing in world.
Your brain thinks you’re physically hurt.
When you get viciously dumped, it can feel like someone has punched you in the stomach, knocking all the wind out of you.
It can be consuming, as if your entire body were suddenly in Rigamortis. Guess what? While nothing has physically been done to you, your brain literally is telling your body the pain is real.
As Naomi Eisenbuerger, Ph.D., and assistant professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angels told Women’s Health Magazine, the area of your brain that lights up when you’re hurt physically is the same area that lights up when you suffer “social rejection.”
So, when we say heartbreak “hurts like hell,” you know it actually hurts.
You either get really heavy or really thin.
Having your heart broken can go one of two ways: you either binge-eat or eat nothing.
It’s all about how you cope with sadness. Some people eat their feelings, using food as a distraction and a comfort while they cry their hearts out, watching an endless stream of Lifetime movies. Others are so racked with anxiety, they can’t even think about eating; food becomes disgusting and indigestible.
For some, heartbreak can be the most fabulously unhealthy diet known to man.
You’re swimming in stress hormones.
As Women’s Health Magazine explains, when you’re in love, your brain is inundated with the neurochemicals dopamine and oxytocin, making you experience feelings of happiness and pleasure. After all, love is more addicting than drugs, according to science.
When you get your heart broken, though, all those lovey-dovey chemicals wash right out of your system, leaving you victim to stress hormones. Your brain pumps 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, ostensibly for swift action. But you’re not leaping anywhere, and as a result you’re plagued with swollen muscles causing headaches, a stiff neck and an awful squeezing sensation in your chest.
The verdict? Heartbreak is really f*cking bad for you.
You’ll be depressed.
Though this one might be obvious, but studies have actually proven heartbreak does cause depression. According to Psychology Today, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University studied 7,000 male and female twins and analyzed 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.” Read: Getting rejected by your boyfriend or girlfriend is the greatest self-esteem hit of them all.
Withdrawal is real.
As I mentioned before, love is just as addicting as drugs, specifically cocaine. 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.”
Luckily, like the withdrawal you experience from drugs, eventually the symptoms will subside and you can get on with your new, single life. It’ll be better, I promise.
You’ll wonder who you are.
Doctors say after a terrible breakup, you can question your identity. According to Erica Slotter, a psychology Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University, “We know that relationships change the way we think about ourselves. When a relationship ends, that sense of self ends.”
Breakups can provoke existential crises. When we’re brutally broken up with, we’re left questioning who we are because we’re not sure how this could have happened to us. Aren’t I lovable? Wasn’t that person The One? Now you’re forced into a new phase of life, you’ll have to figure out just what kind of person you want to be moving forward.
This won’t be the last time heartbreak hits.
Sorry to be the bearer of possibly the worst news known to man, but research from Brown University has found if you experience a breakup, the likeliness of a second breakup increases by 75 percent. I know this is the last thing you want to hear right now, but it’s the truth.
You’ll want to be alone, but you’ll need to avoid it.
When you go through a breakup, the only thing you want to do is be alone. Instead, you need to get those dopamine levels up, stat. The best way to do this is by going out and doing some of the activities you love to do, like activities that bring you joy.
It may seem like the most unappealing thing in the world when you’re miserable and just want to cuddle up to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and finish off your pathetic list of ways to get him back, but if you want your body to heal, you need to GTFO of the house and do sh*t.
Even if you choose to go on a bender, it can be good for the soul. Becoming a hermit crab is only going to prolong and agitate your broken-heart syndrome.