Scientists Explain: This Happens to Your Body When You Have a Broken Heart

Falling in love is an intense emotion and people become euphoric and happy. These positive feelings disappear when a breakup happens.

Heartbreak is often associated with negative emotions that trigger physical distress as well. 

The pain one has from an emotional breakup is real and explainable, according to experts.

Dr. Deborah Lee, a medical writer for Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy in England says that there’s a physiological explanation for the reasons why heartbreak is more than mental distress,

Heartbreaks also take a toll on the physical health and the health of the heart.

The Body & Mind Feel the Pain of a Heartbreak 

Dr. Lee notes that when we’re in love, our hormones burst, including oxytocin levels and the levels of dopamine. This is why falling in love feels confusing, but also very pleasant.

But, when a breakup occurs or when we fall out of love, these levels of feel-good hormones drop whereas the cortisol levels increase. This is known as a hormone that contributes to stress. 

These increases in cortisol secretion may elevate the risk of hypertension, weight gain, acne, and anxiety. Being rejected by a partner or breaking up with them also triggers parts of the brain that are linked with physical pain.

In Rare Cases, a Broken Heart Can Be Recognized as Medical Condition

In rare cases, a broken heart can become a medical condition. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome is a short-term heart condition caused by intense physical or emotional burden.

It leads to short-term changes in how the heart pumps blood. It may lead to faster pumping which could cause pain in the chest.

The broken heart syndrome symptoms mimic heart attacks and both the patients and doctors may not be able to make a clear distinction between the two. 

The only option for diagnosis of broken heart syndrome is via a left heart catheterization or a coronary angiogram. During this procedure, a small catheter is placed through the groin, arm, or neck and it’s guided towards the heart. 

Broken heart syndrome is believed to be caused by serious stressors and usually happens once. Most individuals lose the pain within several days or weeks and there are only a small number of cases of death caused by it. 

Anyhow, experts note that heartbreaks, especially ones from a romantic relationship, can be devastating.

What Happens When You Go Through a Breakup?

Science has the answers to what happens to our body and mind when our hearts are broken and we’re on the path of healing. 

Here are the five ways you can recognize a broken heart:

  1. Depressive thoughts 

Breakups are tough. When you experience a breakup, it’s common to have negative and depressive feelings. If they persist, consult a mental health expert.

  1. You may gain/lose weight 

Sometimes, people who go through a breakup and have a broken heart experience weight gain as they’re eating more to try and mend the negative feelings. 

They may overeat or binge eat and therefore experience an increase in their weight. 

Others may experience the opposite or lose weight. The breakup and negative emotions may cause a loss of appetite and consequently, weight loss. 

  1. Sleeping issues

A lot of individuals report an inability to sleep well after a breakup. 

This is believed to be a result of the higher levels of stress that mess up with the body’s sleep-and-wake rhythm. 

  1. Weaker immunity 

Heartbreak is associated with stress and too much stress can wreak havoc on the immune system. You may notice cold or flu symptoms after a heartbreak or feeling fatigued and tired, without knowing why.