Broken heart? Here’s what happens to your body and mind
Ever wondered what happens to your mind and body when you go through a break-up? Take a look at the top 10 scientific symptoms of heartbreak to find out whether you've been struck by broken heart syndrome.
We’ve all had that sucker punch feeling in the pit of your stomach during a break-up, but how does your body really react to heartbreak? It’s actually more severe than you might think, with an effect that’s similar to the withdrawal you might experience when giving up smoking. The average person can expect a range of physical and mental effects to strike for what feels like forever (or at least 26 days).
So, what becomes of the broken hearted? Here are the top 10 symptoms you’ll likely experience – and why.
1. Overall low mood
It’s unlikely that you’d feel on top of the world during a break-up anyway, but the drop in dopamine and increase in adrenalin in your body produces an effect known as habituation, when you have to find new routines while still missing the old ones. If you’ve ever had to stop yourself sending that daily good night text then you know exactly what we mean.
In a similar way to low mood, depression strikes when your body starts to adapt to the drop in dopamine that comes with a broken heart. Stripped of the ‘reward’ you get when you see the person you love, it’s hard to get that same buzz from elsewhere, which is when the temptation to return to your ex starts to become an issue.
3. Reduced motivation
The combined effect of a low mood with the drop in self-worth that often comes with a break-up can make everything feel like more of an effort. So, if you feel like you can’t manage much more than a Game of Thrones box-set on the sofa, don’t beat yourself up.
4. Anxiety and stress
If you always feel on edge after a break-up then you can blame those two hormones: dopamine and adrenaline. A drop in dopamine, combined with an increase in adrenaline, triggers the fight-or-flight response that’s associated with stress and anxiety.
5. Loss of appetite
If you’re struggling to get excited about any kind of food then you’re dealing with cortisol. Having high levels of this hormone in your blood stream can lead to a high blood sugar, while anxiety-producing adrenaline slows down some of the body’s internal processes, including digestion.
If you can’t stop your mind whirring long enough to get some sleep, blame it on your break-up. Those spiralling, ruminating thoughts (the ones that prey on your mind when you think you might have made a wrong decision) combined with a spike in adrenalin in the body, make it virtually impossible to get a good night’s rest.
7. Unhealthy eating
Everyone knows that ice cream is one of the first things we reach for when we need to heal a broken heart and now there’s a scientific reason behind all those cravings. Stress eating is a common side effect of broken heart syndrome, and can lead to food becoming ‘fetishised’ so that it starts feeling more like a treat than fuel for the body.
8. Lack of exercise
When you’re feeling lethargic and battling a low mood it’s little wonder you don’t feel like making it to the gym. It can be worth the extra effort though; exercise improves levels of endorphins and give you those feelgood vibes you need to get over your ex.
All that emotional stress causes tension throughout the body, and we often feel the effects in our heads first. Be sure to keep hydrated, get plenty of fresh air, go for a walk or treat yourself to a massage to help release some of the tension.
10. Skin problems
As if you weren’t feeling bad enough already, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin can also cause your skin to break out. Watch out for the effects of other symptoms too: lack of sleep and poor diet can also take their toll on your complexion.