They call it heartache for a reason. Feeling depressed after a breakup is not unusual. But how is it that a breakup can make you feel physically sick?
Dr. Roshini Raj explores the physical impacts of breakups in Love U, a new digital series co-produced by Bravo and Mashable.
We know that emotional and physical pain share neuro-pathways, so a breakup can actually cause physical distress. In fact, in one study, when people were shown pictures of their exes, their brain was activated in the same way as when it registers physical pain.
Which is why you need to unfriend or unfollow your ex on social media. This craving for your ex was in fact shown in a study using brain scans to be similar to a cocaine craving—with similar mental withdrawal feelings. And when you have a bad breakup, your hormones can also go haywire, with feel good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin falling, and the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline rising. These changes can cause physical changes like an irregular or rapid heartbeat, that can lead to chest pain or even an increased risk of heart attack.
Stress hormones can also cause weight gain, particularly in the stomach area, and insomnia. Our skin is very sensitive to hormonal shifts, and stress due to a breakup can worsen skin conditions, like psoriasis, or eczema, or even trigger acne.
It can also cause muscle spasms in the legs, or tightness.
With all these stress hormones raging you’re also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors—like eating junk food, not exercising, and drinking too much alcohol.
So what can you do?
First, understand that you will go through a grieving process, much like you do when a loved one passes. And speaking to friends or a therapist can be immensely helpful during this time.
The sooner you can get back to your healthy behaviors, such as eating right, exercising, and sleeping, the better in terms of speeding up your recovery. But knowing there’s a physiological basis to what you’re feeling, should help you know that you’re not crazy and that this too shall pass.
And remember, your rebound relationship is just a Tinder swipe away.
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