Stories have long been told of those that ‘die of a broken heart’, however, researchers believe there may be more to this than just folklore. In fact, studies show that your risk of dying after losing a spouse increases up to 40%!
Referred to as ‘broken heart syndrome’, it refers to a phenomenon called stress-induced cardiomyopathy. While it mimics the symptoms of a heart attack, and will even return similar test results, there is no actual evidence of blocked arteries. Instead, part of your heart enlarges temporarily, negativity impacting its ability to pump properly, while the rest of the heart continues to try to function normally and even contracting with more force in an attempt to compensate. While it is largely treatable, broken heart syndrome can be fatal in some severe cases!
The truth is that a broken heart can actually impact your body more ways than one. From negatively impacting your mental health to causing physical pain within your body, let’s be honest… Breakups are rough! Don’t believe me?
Here are 7 things scientists reveal happen to your body when you experience a broken heart:
#1 – Depression
The end of a significant relationship in our lives can result in overwhelming feelings and emotions, leaving us reeling while trying to pick up the pieces of our life and put it all back together as a single person. This is something that some people are able to do more efficiently for others. For those with a history of mental health problems, or who have other stressful events going on in their life, this can be the tipping point. Studies show that this is even more common in breakups where you are the one being broken up with, resulting in feelings of rejection and poor self-esteem.
#2 – Physical Pain
If you have ever experienced a difficult breakup, then you know the pain that can take over your entire body. Is this merely an overreaction to the situation or is there something more happening? Scientists say that the area of the brain responsible for processing emotional pain like rejection is the same area that processes physical pain. For this reason, your brain is actually telling your body that yes, you are feeling physical pain at this time, even if nothing has happened to cause a physical injury.
#3 – Withdrawal
Following a breakup, we often find ourselves craving the love and attention of the person who recently left our life. This isn’t just an emotional reaction to the breakup. Instead, we are actually experiencing a craving similar to that felt by an addict. In one study, researchers found that the reward center of the brain lights up when we see a picture of our spouse. This is the same area of the brain that lights up when we are exposed to nicotine or cocaine. As a result, we experience a similar withdrawal when the source of that pleasure is removed from our lives.
#4 – Poor Sleeping Habits
Breakups can be an incredibly stressful situation, turning everything we knew to be true in our lives upside down. When we are faced with high-stress levels, many people find that it impacts their sleeping habits. Specifically, stress has been linked with difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep. Lack of sleep actually creates more stress in our lives, creating a vicious cycle. The only way to break free is to lower our stress level allowing for much-needed rest and relaxation. There are many different options for managing stress levels including breathing exercises and meditation.
#5 – Questioning Who We Are
If you have ever gone through a serious breakup, and in the aftermath find yourself questioning who you truly are, then you’re not alone. When we are in a serious relationship, this is part of what defines who we are as a person both to ourselves and to the people around us. When this relationship ends, so too does that aspect of who we are. This can leave a person questioning who they are as a single person, especially if they have been in that relationship for a long period of time.
#6 – Weight Loss or Increase
There is no denying the fact that a broken heart triggers some significant emotions, however, the way that you handle these emotions can also have a lasting effect. One of the ways that we cope with overwhelming emotions is through a change in our diet. For some people, this means drowning your feelings in your favorite foods, binge eating. This will, inevitably, lead to an increase in weight. Meanwhile, others experience appetite loss as a result of these feelings, leading to weight loss over time.
#7 – Poor Immune System
Another result of the increased stress in our lives is a decrease in the function of our immune system. When you are experiencing stress, the body releases a stress hormone, which suppresses the immune system leaving us susceptible to viruses and bacteria. As a result, those who have experienced a heartbreak may find that they are sick more often, fighting off colds, flu, and other common ailments.
Image via BBC