From ‘skin hunger’ to sickness – the 8 ways your body reacts to heartbreak
THE END of a relationship can make you feel pretty out of sorts.
Turns out, the pain isn’t just emotional.
Heartbreak can actually manifest physically in your body, in ways that might surprise you.
Whether it’s your eating habits, sleeping habits or in your skin, here are some of the ways your body responds to losing someone.
1. Feeling sick or losing your appetite
If you’ve tuned in to a few rom-coms in your time, you might associate heartbreak with eating your feelings: cue all the ice-cream and chocolate.
But the distress of losing or breaking up with someone could activate your body’s fight or flight response, according to Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
When this happens, your body pumps blood that would normally fuel your digestion process into your muscles.
This can lead to you feeling queasy.
2. Spiralling thoughts
After a breakup, you might find yourself repeatedly going over what happened and trying to make sense of it.
These thought spirals are normal and don’t mean you’re being obsessive, therapist Aimee Daramus said.
If you’ve experienced grief of some sort, your mind will often replay the events leading up to it to protect itself from future distress.
Therapist Meghan Watson added: “Our minds naturally want to ruminate on issues they can’t understand or comprehend.”
This can be the case, for example, if you’ve been broken up with and didn’t understand your partner’s motives for ending the relationship.
The brain tries to cope with the discomfort of uncertainty by making up stories about why the breakup happened.
Aimee suggested you replace, “Why did this happen?” questions with, “What did I notice when this happened?” to calm your racing thoughts.
3. Sleepless nights
Breakups can be pretty stressful.
And according to the National Sleep Foundation, any stressful event could cause acute insomnia or difficulty falling or staying asleep.
This is due to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which can prevent you from drifting off or entering deep sleep.
But worry not – your body will soon readjust and you should be snoozing away as normal in no time.
Sticking to the same bedtime every night, avoiding caffeine and meditating to calm your thoughts can help.
4. ‘Skin hunger’
After a breakup, you might go weeks or months without physical touch from another person.
We’re born needing human touch, according to Kory Floyd, a communications professor at the University of Arizona.
So not being touched by a loved one for long periods of time could cause you to feel on edge, stressed, and tired.
It could even weaken your immune system, according to Dr Floyd.
5. Texting the ex
We’ve all had the urge to do the unspeakable and text our ex.
Thankfully, that urge is pretty normal, according to relationship advice columnist Amy Chan.
When you’re in a relationship, your brain actually forms neural pathways that are linked to memories with your partner.
So when that person is gone, your brain creates a separation response that elicits heartache, sadness, and grief, according to a 2015 blog from the journal Nature.
Amy said the best way to avoid actually texting your ex is to keep them out of sight, out of mind – for example, by deleting them off your social media accounts.
6. Physical ache
It’s not only metaphorical heartache that a breakup might cause you.
Your body might physically ache.
In 2010, three relationship researchers looked at the brain scans of 15 heartbroken people and found their emotional turmoil caused brain activity in the same areas where the brain processes physical pain.
7. ‘Broken heart syndrome’
This one is rare, but some people can experience ‘broken heart syndrome’, a sudden cardiac arrest event caused by extreme stress.
Also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it usually affects women over 50, according to Insider.
When someone experiences the effects of broken heart syndrome, stress hormones rush to their heart muscles, temporarily stunning it and making it beat irregularly.
This type of cardiac arrest event can feel like a heart attack and be fatal in some instances, according to cardiologist Dr. Harmony Reynolds.
Anything that leads to a sudden spike in stress hormones could induce it, such as illness, a sudden injury or the passing of a loved one, she said.
8. Skin flare up
The last thing you want after a breakup is bad skin.
But the stress of heartbreak can cause the skin’s oil glands and skin cells to go into overdrive, leading to clogged pores that are a breeding ground for pimples, according to Dr. Josie Howard, a clinical instructor of psychology at University of California in San Francisco.
You also might experience an increase in adrenaline, which could cause stress-induced hives or a flare up, if you have an existing skin condition, dermatologist Dr. Debra Luftman told Cosmopolitan.
That being said, your body will begin to adjust to the change once it’s over the initial shock of heartbreak.
It’ll go through ‘abrupt chemical changes’, almost like it would with a type of withdrawal, clinical psychologist Kristin Bianchi said.
But the neurotransmitters that crave the feel-good hormones your previous relationship provided will begin to adjust and find new ways to get that pleasurable feeling, according to Kristin.
Source of data and images: thesun