Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The real pain of heartbreak

We often hear about heartbreak and associate it with rom coms and classic romance films where we see the main character binge eating ice-cream and drinking wine while sobbing on the sofa. Yes, this is a coping mechanism for some, but by portraying heartbreak in this way, it diminishes the struggle and undeniable pain that a heartbreak causes emotionally, mentally and physically.

Heartbreak is also seen as the inevitable outcome of relationships and we are told that there are plenty more fish in the sea after failed relationships. Despite independence being seen as this strong characteristic, there remains the notion that the only metric of relationship success is marriage and staying together “til death does us part”. Eternal love is defined as success in love so, perhaps, we hurt more because of the pressure of finding this type of love.

The prolonged cortisol release can be damaging as it makes us feel weak

Many people who have experienced heartbreak will tell you of the aching in their chest and the feeling of loss. There are proven physical effects of heartbreak – often referred to as Broken Heart Syndrome – where the chest pain, the difficulty breathing, and the sudden changes of blood pressure mirror those symptoms of a heart attack.

Broken Heart Syndrome is real and frightening. Along with this, there are new emotions such as loss, isolation, and fear which can result in physical symptoms in our bodies, involving the natural chemical reaction of cortisol being released to remedy the feeling of stress and pain. The prolonged cortisol release can be damaging as it makes us feel weak, experience muscle fatigue, headaches and all of this puts a strain on your immune system.

The sudden loss that people experience during a breakup can be followed by extreme grief

Is it possible to die from a broken heart? You could say that the side of you that loved that person dies when you go through heartbreak. There is a part of you that is dispersed and even shattered when you lose someone. Some studies show that during bereavement of a deceased loved one, their individual mortality rate increases.

Down to the emotions that close down on us when we are suffering from heartbreak, our mental health can be affected in a detrimental way. The sudden loss that people experience during a breakup can be followed by extreme grief and these feelings can cause symptoms of depression including weight fluctuation, a loss of motivation, extreme fatigue to the point of exhaustion, and feeling a sense of worthlessness.

It is important to acknowledge that suffering is not something that should be ignored

If seeing the light in a dark tunnel seems almost unreachable, it is essential to avoid re-traumatising yourself by replaying the loss in our minds. Your physical well-being has already been affected when you first went through that state of shock – to keep re-living that could have long-lasting damaging effects.

Although you may desperately want to fast forward or rewind time, all you have is now. It is common to read that exercise, mindfulness, yoga and spending time with close friends and family can aid your road to recovery, which are all important to deal with loss in a positive way, but you must take care of your broken heart.

By latching onto thoughts of sadness, you identify as these thoughts and feelings caused by heartache rather than seeing them as separate. You could fall into a self-created void of loss. Rather than falling deeper into this void, it is important to acknowledge that suffering is not something that should be ignored. Nor is it something that can be explained to fit the description of every individual, but it is something that can be used as a strength.

If you feel that there is nobody to turn to, please don’t shut yourself away. For anyone who has been affected by the issues raised in this article, there are lots of places you can turn to for help and support. Warwick Wellbeing Support Services are available through the Wellbeing Portal, online or over the phone. NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust are offering online or over the phone urgent support for anyone suffering from mental health issues. More information can be found on their website. Charities such as MIND also have information, guidance and support available online.

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