THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF HEARTBREAK

You are not alone.

You’ve probably clicked on this title because you yourself have experienced the torture that is heartbreak, and you know how difficult it was or is to describe the extent of your pain in words. We hope that you’ll find some solace and comfort in the following observations, and please please please, consult with your doctor or seek help if you’re struggling through this period. A good listener can help you slowly heal.

LOVE IS A DRUG

Falling in love and giving yourself to another is a risky business. There’s no guarantee of it lasting forever, and people’s feelings and circumstances change. Aside from this, humans need love to survive, and what we experience during this intense emotion is parallel to becoming addicted to cocaine. Love is, after all, a drug. Therefore, when that fix is taken away from you, it’s as if you’ll be going cold turkey after a fierce dependency on a substance. It is mentally, emotionally and physically agonising. The withdrawal symptoms that arise from a break up in fact stem from the same areas of the brain that are awake in cocaine addicts who go cold turkey. Nonetheless, these symptoms will fade in time, and it is absolutely possible for you to survive them.

 

IT HURTS

An assistant professor of Psychology at the University of California, Naomi Eisenbuerger, has remarked on how the areas of the brain that register physical pain are the same ones that take in rejection from a loved one. Therefore, it’s logical for those suffering heartbreak to describe their agony as constantly being punched in the sternum or stomach. This is why doctors recommend medication for heart burn or acid when their patient reports heartbreak.

A STRESSFUL PERIOD

When we’re happily in love, our brains are flooded with the neurochemicals dopamine and oxytocin, which trigger a sense of happiness and bliss. However, once the wind is knocked out of you when you’re rejected or dumped, these are instantly drained, leaving the brain vulnerable to stress hormones. Therefore, to combat the phenomenon, your brain pumps cortisol and epinephrine into your body, readying it into fight or flight mode. But since you’re not physically fleeing anything, this tenses up your muscles, leaving you with symptoms such as headaches, cramps and heart burn.

 

THE BLACK DOG SHOWS UP

Depression is a very common symptom of heartbreak, and it should be monitored as soon as possible. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University found that there’s a difference between the bereavement of a deceased loved one and the loss of a partner. This is because the latter crushes your self-esteem, which can often lead to an existential crisis that should be addressed if it spirals. While the death of a loved one rarely affects one’s self-esteem, the rejection caused by a partner is entirely tied to one’s self-worth. We advise that you do your utmost to spend time around those who support you and talk about it in order to stop yourself from becoming a recluse or worsening your condition. Speak to your doctor who can prescribe a very mild antidepressant if necessary. There is no shame in this, and be sure to keep going through the dark tunnel.

WHO AM I?

As we’ve said, an existential crisis or questions on your self-worth may arise during this phase. You’ll ask yourself if you can ever truly be loved, and your life is shattered because you thought you had found stability in love. It’s important to ask these questions but not dwell on negative answers. Yes, you’ll have to start afresh, but take this as an opportunity to invest yourself in the things you enjoy, or explore new hobbies and new horizons. The important thing is to rediscover yourself as an individual. Tempting as it may often be, don’t hide away in your room in the dark. The people who love you will see you through this.

 

TEARS

You’ll also probably spend a long period crying, and incidentally producing a different type of tear. This is because humans produce a variety of tears. Differing from reflex tears that are produced as a response to irritants such as onions, psychic tears are created through the lachrymal gland in the upper corner of the eyelid. They’re more watery and less salty than regular tears, and so through osmosis, they’re drawn into the saltier tissues of the eyes, rendering them puffy, sore and red, especially if you’re constantly wiping them away.

LOSS OF APPETITE

Because of the shock of the heart break, some people momentarily lose the ability to chew or swallow. Also, we tend to forget to eat or are incapacitated from eating because of the constant crying we go through. Eventually, your appetite will return, but be careful not to gorge or upset your digestive system. A part of the brain called the hypothalamus produces a hormone that halts your appetite when stressed, and when your body is in fight or flight mode, the appetite is put on hold. Do your utmost to regain your strength and stick to soups and broths, as these contain all the nutrients your body requires. You should also consult with your doctor to keep your digestive system in check.

 

It’s not easy and it will take a long time. Be sure to surround yourself with friends and family, push through and seek help.