Breaking up with your significant other impacts more than just your social life, as it can causes significant stress on your body. Our bodies have several responses to help us deal with this stress. However, there are also negative consequences of these responses.
Here are 10 of the terrible reactions your body has to a breakup:
1. You feel physical pain
"Love hurts" is more than some metaphorical song lyric. Did you know that a study determined that acetaminophen (the main ingredient in pain killers like Tylenol) actually reduces the pain of a break up? This is because a broken heart can cause physical pain.
In a different study, participants devastated from breakups looked at a series of photos, including pictures of their exes. As the scientists scanned their brain responses, they discovered that the brain's physical pain receptors lit up when they saw the photos of their former partner. So if someone tells you the pain of your break up is "all in your head," they're right, but literally.
2. You lose your hair
Many people wonder why they lose so much hair after a breakup. But just like in any stressful situation, the body tries to fix the issue. In this case, the stress can trigger an auto-immune condition which attacks your hair follicles or increases the production of androgen, which causes female pattern baldness. The good news is that as you recover from the heart-break, your hair should grow back.
3. You have an existential crisis
When you break up with your partner, it can be challenging to remember who you are without them. While in a relationship, it's common to change beliefs, appearance, activities, plans, etc. as a result of living life with another person. These changes may be slight but because of these changes, it can be challenging for you to have a clear sense of self since you are no longer the person you were in the relationship, but neither are you the person you were before the relationship.
4. You gain or lose weight
A common reaction to the stress of a breakup is to either eat everything or nothing. When you're stressed, more adrenaline enters your system, raising cortisol levels. Cortisol, a stress hormone, functions to help the body use sugar and fat. The abnormal level of cortisol can cause your body to misread feelings of hunger as a need to eat more sugar and fatty foods or to not eat at all.
5. You get headaches
Not only does cortisol entice you to eat more or make you lose your appetite, it also makes your muscles swollen and sore. The stress caused by the break up makes your body enter fight or flight mode and sends more blood to your muscles. But since you aren't releasing that additional power, it makes your muscles ache and causes headaches.
6. You get sick
Maybe our heroine in "Sense and Sensibility" was actually onto something. Stress and loneliness actually have the power to weaken your immune system. Because your body is handling the stress, it doesn't focus as much effort on fighting off germs entering your body. So a broken heart can actually make you physically ill.
7. You get depression
Any loss creates deep feelings of sadness. But break ups are an especial trigger for depression, because the grief is mixed with feelings of humiliation and lowered self-esteem.
8. You experience withdrawals
Scientists have discovered that love really is a drug. While in a relationship, your brain becomes accustomed to the "high" from daily love experiences that are similar to the effects of drugs. So when you lose the relationship, you also lose those stimuli. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that your body experiences withdrawals similar to a body's response to being cut off from drugs. In fact, your cravings for your significant other can be very real. Once your body becomes used to not getting a fix from love, you will go back to normal.
9. Your heart can break
Believe it or not, your heart can literally break when you lose your significant other. As a result of a break up, part of your heart can enlarge, preventing it from pumping well. This is commonly referred to as "broken heart syndrome." If you have shortness of breath or intense chest pain, see a doctor.
10. You can die
It may sound dramatic, or like something out of a soap opera but scientists say it actually is possible to die of a broken heart. Researchers say that the loss of a loved one is traumatic on the body and the influx of stress hormones can cause heart spasms. These spasms are potentially life threatening and you should see a doctor if you are experiencing them.