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Can Your Heart Really Break? 6 Things That Happen To Your Body During A Break Up

June 03, 2015 3 min read

Going through a breakup can be one of the most excruciatingly painful things in life. You can't sleep, you can't eat. You can barely breathe. You can't leave the house and you just want to give up. Chances are, you are more than aware of the emotional and psychological impact of your heartache but you may not know about the physical impact. Most of the health issues that come from a heartbreak are linked to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In an interview with Huffington Post,  Kathleen Hall of the Mindful Living Network said, “Stress is caused when you feel out of control" and this activates the fight or flight response and lasts for some time. Fortunately, this doesn't last forever. But until you move beyond it, it is important to know what your body is going through so you can not only validate your feelings, but give yourself the care you need. Here are 6 ways a break up can affect your health: Heartbreak is physical The Journal of Neurophysiology released a study that explained why a broken heart causes physical pain -- headache, nausea, full body ache just to name a few. In the study, when heartbroken subjects were shown photographs of their exes, researchers found that their longing emotions activated the same part of the brain that registers physical pain. Emotional pain and physical pain have neural pathways in common. Eventually, your left frontal cortex, the part of the brain that deals with reassessment and evaluation, is activated and you come to understand the process and move forward.

You May Experience Withdrawal Symptoms

The Journal of Neurophysiology released a study from Stony Brook University in which 15 recently dumped men were asked to complete basic math equations after viewing pictures of their exes. As researchers looked at the brain activity, it was seen that exposure to the memories of their ex activated the region of the brain that registers the pain cocaine addicts feel when they are going through withdrawal. Your brain becomes accustomed to the presence of another person, like it can become accustomed to the presence of a drug. When you split up, your neural circuits need to adjust to the absence. The good news is that this passes. Your body will remember how it functioned before and you will go back to normal.

It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep

Listen to the old song "In The Wee Small Hours Of the Morning" and you'll think it was written for you. You lie there replaying memories in the quiet dark. This loneliness combined with a stressed out nervous system and heart rate and sleep becomes next to impossible. But, this too shall pass.

Your appetite changes

Heartbreak has a profound effect on appetite in either direction. Again, you can thank cortisol for this. Stress can lead to salty or sweet cravings and eating those foods causes cortisol to rise even higher. Snacking non stop may be a temporary comfort but it can make you feel much worse. If you don't find you have increased cravings, you my find you have no appetite at all. Your body is trying to process the cortisol and it reacts by slowing down your digestive system resulting in an upset stomach and a lack of appetite. No food means no energy. You need energy to get through this time.

More stress = even more digestive issues

Diminished appetite is a symptom of short term stress, long term stress can lead to much bigger digestive issues. Divorce or a break up of a long term relationship can create a scenario where long term stress may arise in which indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and heartburn can develop. Exercise can help reduce the effects of long term stress.

Your immune system weakens, and you’re susceptible to more illnesses

Again with the cortisol! The rise in cortisol leads to a weakened immune system so you might fight yourself also fighting a cold or the flu. If you already have health issues like asthma, you might experience a flare up. Psychoneuroimmunologists have published numerous studies finding links between emotional health and immune system strength. But being aware of these physical side effects should make it easier to take extra care of yourself. See, it isn't all in your head. Do your best to eat right, sleep and throw in a little exercise. Do your best to hang on and ride out the storm. It is going to suck like hell for a while you but you'll make it back. Be kind to yourself.

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