Is Heartbreak A Real Thing?


Being heartbroken isn’t a fun time: you feel physical pain throughout your whole body and it can feel like your world is falling apart. As one of the most common occurrences in our dating life, heartbreak can make you feel like you’re the only person in the whole world to suffer this amount of pain.


Whether you’ve been through the heartbreak ringer a few times or experiencing your first big break up now, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. We have all experienced heartbreak and the physical pain you’re feeling isn’t just in your head.


Can you die from a broken heart?


It’s been said that people can die from a broken heart, and while cases of this are extremely rare, it doesn’t shy away from the fact our bodies go through tremendous issues during a heartbreak. It’s a phenomenon that people try to avoid at all costs, resulting in couples staying in relationships that are way past their expiry date because they are so afraid of being alone.


In a new relationship we start climbing a metaphorical ladder: we climb higher and higher as we fall more in love and become more invested in this person. When we are ruthlessly dumped we fall off the ladder, hitting the ground harder than ever before. One of the main reasons being dumped hurts so much is because the fear of falling off the ladder again is too difficult to bear. We avoid climbing again with a new person because you were sure the last one was ‘the one’.


Why am I in physical pain after a break up?


Experiencing heartbreak ignites a part of the brain that mimics the feeling of physical pain; so if you feel like someone has just punched the wind out of you or your heart strings literally hurt, you’re going through some real pain.


When we lose someone close to us, beit the death of a relationship or an actual death, we suffer profound emotional trauma that changes our brain. ‘Broken heart syndrome’ occurs when our stress hormones impact our heart’s movement, resulting in chest pain and shortness of breath. We are then susceptible to stress hormones during a break up because of the disappearance of happy neurochemicals dopamine and oxytocin, which we are filled with from head to toe when we are in love.


When the love has come to a halt, these pleasure chemicals leave us and open the gateway for stress hormones to wreak havoc on the brain and body. Full of cortisol and epinephrine, our brain sends copious amounts of blood to the muscles ready for fight mode; this is why we start to tense up and experience stiff muscles, headaches and chest tightening.


I feel lost and heartbroken, what can I do to stop feeling like this?


Love can be as addictive as cocaine and when we stop sustaining the addiction cold-turkey, we experience a myriad of withdrawal symptoms. You might have the urge to call your ex, stalk their profile or even do a sneaky drive-by — if you feel this urge call your friends to bring you back to Earth! It’s understandable that being without the huge presence of that person can make you feel like there’s a gap in your life; you now need to use that time and energy for yourself.


It can be tempting to want to be alone, watch endless rom-coms in your room and devour another packet of Oreo’s, but isolating yourself is not great for your mental health. Confide in a friend or therapist to vent about your feelings. Other great ways to deal with pain is finding a distraction; get involved in the group chat and organise to do a fun trivia night or just go out for some drinks and dance your troubles away.


There’s no better time to reflect on what you want to do than right now! Take the opportunity to spend more time with friends or family, start that project you’ve been putting off, or write in your journal for positive reflection. Putting yourself first is now your endgame, eventually your withdrawal symptoms will disappear and you’re ready to launch into your new chapter.

Dr Lurve