Heartbreak hurts, and if you’ve ever had a broken heart, you know it. What you may not know, however, is that there’s a scientific reason as to why heartbreak hurts as badly as it does. Today, we will cover the science of heartbreak, how it affects your mental health, and most importantly, what to do about it.
The Science Behind Heartbreak
There are two main things we know about the science of heartbreak that explain why heartbreak hurts so badly:
- Love releases dopamine and other chemicals that make us feel good. When we break up with someone, we can get what not only feels like but factually is a withdrawal.
- Emotional pain activates some of the same parts of the brain that physical pain does. This was proven in a study that looked at MRI scans of the brain following social rejection. If heartbreak seems to physically hurt you, this may be why.
There is even such a thing as broken heart syndrome.
How It Affects Your Mental Health
A breakup is an adjustment, and heartbreak can impact your mental health in a variety of ways. When you go through heartbreak, you may endure any of the following:
- Feelings of sadness or changes in mood.
- Isolation and withdrawal from others.
- Withdrawal from activities one typically enjoys.
- Irritability or agitation.
- Changes in appetite.
- Feelings of guilt or blaming oneself.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Feelings of loneliness.
On top of that, breakups and a broken heart can cause a lot of stress. You may be going through matters such as distributing personal items and property after a breakup, or you may be dealing with child custody concerns.
You may also feel as though you will never love again, especially if you thought of this person as the one. As much as it may seem impossible right now, it is very possible to move forward, heal, and have healthy, happy relationships again.
What To Do
If you are undergoing the throes of heartbreak, you may be wondering, “so, what do I do about it?” Thankfully, there is an answer. Here are some things you can do:
- Stop looking at their social media profiles. It is tempting for many people to look at their ex-partner’s social media profiles and see what they’re up to, but keeping them in your peripheral will only make things worse. Block or mute them on your social media accounts, and consider taking a social media break or going private on social media yourself if it’s beneficial to you.
- Focus on yourself and your goals in life. This doesn’t need to happen at the exact moment that you break up, but moving forward, think about what you want and need in life.
- Implement distance if possible. In many cases, you will be able to disengage from the person entirely. In others, you may have to have necessary contact only, such as interactions surrounding child custody and other similar matters. You may have said something like, “let’s just be friends,” but if you have a broken heart, time away can be crucial for healing. It doesn’t have to be that there’s anything bad about the other person; it’s okay to distance yourself regardless.
- Spend time with positive social influences. Social relationships are a crucial part of our medical and physical well-being. Research shows that people with strong social connections live longer, healthier lives. As tempting as it may be to isolate, reach out to friends and family who are supportive of you as a whole and make sure to spend quality time with them.
- Check-in with yourself and keep tabs on your self-care. Make sure that you are prioritizing sleep, nourishing your body, and implementing other self-care activities.
- Give yourself time. For many, time heals much of the pain that comes with heartbreak. If some time passes and you don’t feel better, make sure to reach out to a medical or mental health professional. No matter how long heartbreak has gone on, it does not have to continue to hurt you forever.
It is also crucial to be gentle and kind with yourself. Heartbreak is a difficult thing to face, and it’s not something that you have to do alone. Use positive self-talk, and no matter where you’re at in terms of heartbreak, don’t be afraid to reach out to a counselor or therapist if you feel that it may benefit you.
Seeing a licensed mental health provider can help with heartbreak and any other concerns you may be facing in life, ranging from mental health conditions to stress to familial issues and more. You can see a therapist or counselor in person or sign up for an online therapy website such as MyTherapist.
Online therapy is often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling, and websites like MyTherapist work with licensed professionals only, ensuring that you will get the quality care you need to heal from a heartbreak and anything else you may be going through. Whether you see someone in person or online, you deserve to find support and move forward after heartbreak.
About the Author – Marie Miguel
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com.
With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.