Heartbreaks are a crushing part of life that so many experience, yet so many are reluctant to discuss. Nothing in this world can quite describe the gut wrenching feeling of a heartbreak, but everyone can understand how a broken heart can truly make you feel like your entire world is crashing down. The effects of heartbreak go past the tears and the excessive ice cream consumption, and have a detrimental effect on both your physical and mental well-being.
Mental Health Effects
The sadness and depression ensued by a broken heart should be taken very seriously. Heartbreak has been found to cause worse depression than other traumatic life events, such as losing a loved one to death. Post-breakup depression has been proven to be worse for those whose breakups involved infidelity or violence, as losses that trigger insecurity are twice as likely to provoke depressive symptoms. Depression can have severe effect on one’s concentration, motivation, mood, and physical health.
The depression-related symptoms we experience during heartbreak often include insomnia, as the shift of hormone levels in our brains can cause us to have problems sleeping. The overthinking that comes along with the grieving process is another explanation for the restless nights we experience post-breakup. Lack of sleep only adds to the overall feeling of exhaustion we experience while coping with a broken heart.
It has been proven that humans can be addicted to love in the exact same way they can be addicted to stimulant drugs such as cocaine. According to a study published by the Journal of Neurophysiology, just as we can become addicted to love, we can also experience the severe withdrawal symptoms that come with rejection and break-ups. Romantic rejection can affect an individual so severely, leading them to sporadic, uncontrollable behaviour, such as being obsessed with the other person, stalking them, and having homicidal and suicidal urges.
When you are head over heels in love with somebody, it is difficult to not spend every second of your free time with them. You become addicted to spending time with them, because they bring you more happiness than you’ve ever felt before. It feels as though when you are together, nothing else matters. The truth is, this ‘addiction’ is not to your significant other, but rather to the chemicals oxytocin and dopamine that our brains release in copious amounts when we’re in love. A broken heart can cause an identity crisis because for so long, you have only known how to live life with someone else by your side. Learning to be independent and alone, not lonely, can be extremely challenging.
Physical Health Effects
Many individuals use food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. Individuals may find comfort in food during times of depression and reach for the unhealthy option when feeling down. They may also use as a distraction away from their own thoughts and feelings, which results in binge-eating behaviours. Another reason why it is so common for weight gain to occur is because when we feel overwhelmed and stressed, the cortisol levels in our brains increase. High cortisol levels have been proven to lead to an increased appetite, which evidently leads to weight gain.
The increased levels of cortisol released in our brains during stressful events also leads to overall muscle tension and discomfort. This goes beyond just our muscles feeling sore, and explains the headaches, stomach cramps and chest pains we feel when suffering from heartbreak. A broken heart truly does have the power to take a toll on one’s entire body.
As mentioned above, cortisol is one of the hormones our brains produce while under stress. Not only do our stress levels affect our appetite, but our digestion as well. The more stress we experience, the more cortisol our brains produce. This is extremely problematic for our digestive tract, because the greater amount of cortisol we have in our bodies the more difficult of a time we have digesting foods. This is because the cortisol hormone diverts blood away from our digestive tract, causing severe digestive problems.
Remember that as much pain and hurt a broken heart can cause, it can also bring a lot of good. A broken heart can teach you so many things about not only yourself but about how life works. Remember that when it comes to heartbreak, the pain is temporary and the lessons are permanent.
By Julia Solimine