At one point or another, we may all have gone through that heart-wrenching feeling that engulfs after a break-up or a big disappointment. While we try our best ‘to get over it’ and ‘move on’, those feels of sadness, despair and pain are very real. They don’t go away that easily. And while our heart does not physically break into two, heartbreak, if not dealt with the right way, can lead to not just physical but mental health problems too.
A study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology suggests that a romantic disconnect and loss causes an individual immense discomfort. They experience lack of emotional control, and can also lead to suicide and clinical depression, in extreme cases. In fact, these can even effect our physical health and well being!
The American Heart Association says heartbreak can cause something called a Broken Heart syndrome. The symptoms of this include chest pain and it can even mirror a heart attack.
Can heartbreak affect your mental health?
Heartbreak is indeed a real and profound emotional experience that can have tangible effects on one’s physical health. Health Shots got in touch with psychologist Dr Imran Noorani to understand how heartbeak can make you physical sick. “As a psychologist, understanding the intricate interplay between emotions and the body is crucial in comprehending the impact of heartbreak. Firstly, it is essential to recognise that heartbreak is not merely a metaphorical expression. It also manifests physically. When individuals undergo emotional distress, the brain activates the stress response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones, intended for short-term ‘fight or flight’ situations, can become chronic in the context of prolonged emotional pain, leading to disruptions in various bodily functions,” he says.
Also Read: Had a heartbreak? Here’s how you can deal with it
3 physical outcomes of a heartbreak
1. High blood pressure and heart rate
While you are nursing a broken heart, it turns out that your heart might actually be struggling physically as well. “Chronic stress can contribute to elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and, in the long run, a heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases. Psychologically, heartbreak activates brain regions associated with physical pain, explaining why individuals often describe the emotional pain of heartbreak as a literal ache or heaviness in the chest,” explains Dr Noorani.
2. Weakens immunity
The immune system becomes compromised under the prolonged influence of stress hormones. “The body’s ability to fight off infections diminishes, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses. The connection between emotional well-being and physical health is a testament to the intricate mind-body relationship,” says Dr Noorani.
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3. Triggers insomnia
Sleep, a cornerstone of overall health, is profoundly affected by heartbreak. “Emotional distress can lead to insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns, exacerbating feelings of fatigue and contributing to a weakened immune system. This cyclical relationship between emotional turmoil and physical health creates a challenging dynamic for individuals experiencing heartbreak,” explains Dr Noorani.
Also Read: Just broke up? Here are 8 dos and don’ts to deal to help you deal with the heartbreak
How to get over a heartbreak?
While there are no magic pills that can be taken, there are some constructive ways you can nurse your heart back to happiness.
1. Grieve well
From a psychological perspective, the grieving process plays a pivotal role in navigating heartbreak. “Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has spoken about grief and how it manifests in 5 stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Understanding these stages can provide insight into the emotional journey individuals undertake, allowing psychologists to tailor interventions that facilitate healthy coping mechanisms,” says Dr Noorani.
2. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help
Psychological interventions often focus on fostering resilience and coping strategies. “Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can help individuals reframe negative thought patterns, allowing them to process emotions more adaptively. Additionally, mindfulness-based interventions, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, can mitigate the physiological impact of stress and promote emotional well-being,” explains Dr Noorani.
3. Social support system
Social support is another crucial component in mitigating the effects of heartbreak. “We are human beings love bein social, interacting with friends and family. These interactions and communications can often help stop negative health consequences of emotional distress. Psychologists often encourage clients to build and maintain a strong support network to navigate the challenges of heartbreak,” adds Dr Noorani.
Heartbreak is undeniably real and has tangible effects on physical health. The intricate relationship between emotions and the body underscores the importance of a holistic approach to well-being. By understanding the psychological processes at play, psychologists can offer targeted interventions to help individuals navigate the complexities of heartbreak, fostering resilience and promoting overall health and healing.