If you’ve ever been through a breakup, you’ll be familiar with the almost-excruciating pain that often accompanies it.
The dull, constant ache in your chest coupled with your inability to eat anything other than junk food and the sheer exhaustion of having to be alive…
…on your own.
It’s horrible, but why does it happen?
We’re taking a look behind the scenes of heartbreak to figure out why it hurts so much.
The Psychology Of A Breakup
Breakups are similar in many ways to the death of a loved one.
Not only have you essentially lost part of your life, you no longer have that person with you anymore.
It’s not so much that they have died, but that what you had has gone and isn’t coming back.
You’re also dealing with the loss of an idea; of the hope that comes with every relationship, no matter how long it lasts.
You’re likely to experience similar feelings to those that genuine grievers feel – desperate loneliness, anger, upset.
You’ll also experience the nasty physical symptoms too, such as not eating or sleeping and constantly crying!
Regardless of whose idea it was, there will inevitably be feelings of regret, too.
You’ll spend a lot of time wondering where it went wrong, what you did to push them over the edge, or whether it would be worth trying ‘just one more time.’
You can spend hours torturing yourself over what you could have done differently and whether or not you should have fought harder for the relationship.
It’s not at the forefront of most people’s minds during a fresh breakup, but practical aspects of your life will also change.
Do you move out or crash on the couch?
Who gets custody of the dog/ Netflix account?
Who gets to keep going to their local pub with your mutual friends?
These aspects of breaking up only highlight just how together you really were – unpicking a joint life is painful and is a daily reminder of how much things have changed.
It may be for the best, but every single moment of your day (and life) is now empty of this person and that is a huge shift.
It may be something as small as who now takes the bins out – trust me, the first time you do this rather than your partner, you will weep.
At the end of the day, change is unsettling and a breakup is one of the biggest, most stressful and upsetting changes out there.
It’s Okay To Be Emotional
Unless you’re a bit of a robot, your emotions will be all over the place during a breakup.
Remember what we mentioned about grief? Well, that feeling really continues throughout the breakup; you’ll feel as though someone is missing.
You’ll obviously feel upset and sad about this, but anger is also pretty likely to crop up as well.
It’s probable that you’re feeling frustrated and hurt, and that these sensations will feel very unfair – you don’t deserve this!
Those emotions are totally rational, and are all part of the grieving process.
You’re probably going to spend a lot of time wallowing and a lot of energy wishing you could change things.
This part of a breakup is so tiring; it feels endless and achingly painful.
You’ll spend a long time going over and over what happened.
It’s pretty normal to wake up feeling normal and then experience the tearing, searing pain of remembering what your reality is now.
It will take a while for that to fully sink in, and each time you remember or relive the breakup, it’ll hurt all over again like a brand new wound.
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The Physical Pain Of A Breakup
As we’ve mentioned, physical symptoms are very common during any breakup.
This is where the word ‘pain’ really starts to show itself. Heart pain is a very real part of being heartbroken – your chest may genuinely hurt at times.
This is largely due to the extreme stress (and distress) your body is under.
Our bodies are so linked to our minds, that being upset can lead to having an upset stomach – yep, not nice to think about, but our mental state plays a huge role in how our digestive system works.
Anxiety is likely to be pretty rife around now, too, so it’s no surprise that our chests will be pumping like mad and will feel odd.
Headaches and tension in our foreheads are very common. This is often due to not really looking after ourselves properly during a breakup.
A breakup diet rarely features a full day’s worth of water and an adequate level of fresh fruit and veg.
Your physical symptoms are quite likely to be down to a change in your diet and lifestyle, as well as increased stress and anger.
We’re also pretty likely to not only neglect our well-being, but actively indulge in self-destructive behaviors.
It may feel as though there’s no point in looking after yourself when going through a breakup…
…that can mean going on wild nights out, drinking more than you really should, and not caring much when it comes to food choices.
Anyone else’s breakup diet consist of tequila, Ben and Jerry’s, and Chinese takeout?
You’ll probably be taking a break from working out, too, unless you’ve skipped straight to the ‘revenge body’ stage and are hitting the gym like a gold medal athlete.
This change to your routine can leave you feeling a bit ‘off’ and can also alter the hormones in your system.
If you’re used to getting a fix of endorphins (the hormones that exercise releases), no longer heading to spin class can cause a drop in these.
That means you’re left feeling out of sorts, exhausted, and more likely to experience pain in general.
Losing someone in your life, even through a breakup, can feel like the end of the world.
Scientifically, you’re also going through a lot of changes. Without getting into it too much, the chemical or hormone levels in your brain change when you’re in love.
When these alter during a breakup, you can experience physical changes and that horrible heartache.
In the same way that people experience ‘comedowns’ or withdrawal symptoms from drugs, you are going through a chemical shift.
You naturally receive a huge boost of dopamine and oxytocin – two of the main hormones responsible for all the spooning and swooning – when you’re with someone you care about.
When you’re no longer coupled up, these hormones severely drop off and you’re left feeling horrific.
In fact, you’re likely to experience this in the same way you would physical pain.
Our brains can almost confuse these scenarios, meaning we’re lucky enough to be left with stress headaches, palpitations, and flu-like symptoms.
Breakups can be traumatic, no matter how mutual they are, or how much you both agree to stay friends.
Due to the emotional trauma and extreme emotions you’ll be processing, your brain can almost shut down.
Not completely, of course, but it changes how it works.
As part of a self-defense mechanism, your brain can shut off certain feelings that it perceives to be painful.
That explains the numbness, then…
So, there we have it.
Sure, it won’t make those heartbreak blues disappear, but it can be good to at least understand what your mind and body is going through.
This applies to you, regardless of what kind of breakup you’re going through.
You may have sensed that the end is near, or may have been planning it yourself, but your body and mind can never really be prepared for what you’ll go through when it happens.
The important thing to take away from all of this is that you will get back to normal!
If they’re strong enough to help you sit through countless romcoms, summon your friends from across the country and gain a whole bunch of breakup weight, your mind and body are strong enough to get you through it all, too.