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Your Body During a Breakup: The Science of a Broken Heart
For your body and mind, the breakup of a romantic relationship is very stressful.
You feel the hurt deeply and you may feel like you will never be able to love again, but those are just the emotional symptoms of a breakup. Let us review some things that happen to your body after your partner breaks your heart.
1. Self-medication to cope with the dopamine withdrawal
Neurotransmitters that make you feel happy; dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin levels, are all higher when you are in love. When you go through a breakup, your body feels more physical pain than before due to decreased oxytocin levels.
2. Weight changes
Gaining or losing weight is common for those going through a breakup. Some may engage in binge eating as it releases dopamine, which can make them feel better. Some others lose their appetite completely and may want to stay in bed all day.
3. Headaches and body aches
Not only does cortisol entice you to eat more or make you lose your appetite, it also makes your muscles swollen and sore.
4. Loss of sleep
Your thoughts are fixated on the cause of the breakup, revisiting the past happy moments from the relationship, and planning on how to win your partner back. No wonder you can’t sleep.
5. Physical illness
As your body is handling the stress, it doesn't focus as much on fighting off germs entering your body. So a broken heart can actually make you physically ill.
Any loss creates deep feelings of sadness, but break ups are special triggers because the grief is mixed with feelings of humiliation and lowered self-esteem.
Scientists have discovered that while in a relationship, your brain becomes accustomed to the "high" from daily love experiences that are similar to the effects of drugs. So a breakup gives your body experiences of withdrawals similar to the body's response to being cut off from drugs.
8. Your heart can break
Believe it or not, your heart can literally break when you lose your significant other because part of your heart can enlarge, preventing it from pumping well. This is commonly referred to as broken heart syndrome.
The stress can trigger an auto-immune condition which attacks your hair follicles or increases the production of androgen, which causes female pattern baldness. The good news is that as you recover from the heart-break, your hair should grow back.
10. You have an existential crisis
While in a relationship, it's common to change beliefs, appearance, activities, plans, etc. as a result of living life with another person. These changes may be slight, but because of these changes, it can be challenging for you to have a clear sense of self since you are no longer the person you were in the relationship, but neither are you the person you were before the relationship.
11. Your sensual drive declines
Although you might think that a quick hookup would be the cure for your broken heart, due to your emotional pain, your sensual drive is temporarily on hold and you won’t feel much like seeking out your next romantic partner, which is good because you need to heal your heart first.
12. Your stress hormone levels increase
After a breakup, the emotional stress causes higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes increased heart rate, faster breath and higher blood pressure.
13. You can die
It may sound dramatic, or like something out of a soap opera, but it actually is possible to die of a broken heart. Researchers say that the loss of a loved one is traumatic on the body and the influx of stress hormones can cause heart spasms. These spasms are potentially life threatening and you should see a doctor if you are experiencing them.
Knowing all this should surely help you come out of your breakup and move on with better understanding of your mind & body.