Can your ex be bad for you, health-wise? In a word, yes: It seems as though the list of ways your ex can be bad for your health is long and treacherous. Of course, it would be awesome to just sidestep the whole thing, but if you have an ex, you know that there is usually some sort of aftermath that comes post-breakup. Even if it's a totally mutual, amicable split, exes can cause a kickback — and a world of problems. According to various experts in the field of love, dating and relationships, exes can be straight-up terrible for your health.
If you're involved in a painful breakup, there is all the more chance that you'll come down with something one of my experts called "ex-itis." Yup, that's a thing — and you've probably come down with it at least once. Actually, you've probably come down with some form of it every single time you've weathered a breakup. For your sake, I hope that number is small, but most of us have been through the wringer several times. Here are 10 ways your ex totally affects your health, even if they're officially out of your life. But first, check out the latest episode of Bustle's Sex and Relationships podcast, I Want It That Way:
1. You Can Come Down With 'Ex-Itis"
Ah, let me count the ways your ex can be detrimental to your health, zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. It all boils down to the way our brains work. "If you are truly connected to yourself … then you have a body/mind connection," she says. "Your mind is a product of your body and brain, so if your mind suffers, then the body suffers."
In fact, your ex can be so awful for you that you can come down with something Paiva calls "ex-itis," and it sounds pretty painful. "Some symptoms of 'ex-itis' are headaches, digestive issues, irregular menstrual cycles, breakouts, and even chronic stress and T-cell issues, like inflammation and joint pain," she says.
"Most of my clients state that their exes, even the ones that they feel are 'friends,' trigger memories for them that are painful, or that they pine for them, which unto itself is a sense of attachment," Paiva says. You'll be happiest if you can let them go. "In a zen philosophy, the idea of non-attachment helps us to break free from the emotional and physical binds of yearning, craving, and suffering," she adds."Move on with a zen-like flow; wish them the best, love and forgive from a distance, and be in the present moment — which is about you." The sooner you do this, the faster you'll recover from your bout of "ex-itis." And don't forget to funnel all of the positive vibes back inward. "Direct energy to yourself, not the ex," she says.
2. They Can Take Over Your Mind
"Thinking about an ex too much can cause you to ruminate and stay focused on the past," psychologist, author and speaker Karin Anderson Abrell tells Bustle. "You may try to overanalyze the relationship, wondering if you should have done things differently." Unfortunately, this part is moot — for better or worse, your relationship has come to an end, and there's no amount of thought in the world that can change this. "This changes nothing and keeps you stuck in the past," Anderson Abrell says. And thoughts upon thoughts can lead to depression. "Studies link ruminating to depression which is, obviously, horrible for your emotional health; and depression has negative consequences on your physical health as well." Get out of your head: take on a new class, spend time with friends, throw yourself into work or your art. Just don't sit around thinking.
3. Being Stalked = Bad For You
"If your ex is stalking you, whether in person or via social media, it will create a huge amount of stress to your life," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. I'll say! Specifically, if you're being stalked, this can result in physical symptoms. "Loss of sleep or appetite, or general fear of your safety are some of the ways an ex stalking you can make your life hell," Carver says. "Their threats of violence or 'payback' can rattle you in ways that you do not expect." If you're dealing with this type of thing, don't go it alone. "Always contact your local police department with any threatening voicemails, emails or texts to begin a chain of evidence," she says. "This will assist you in obtaining a restraining order if necessary." It may sound extreme, but it can be necessary in these circumstances.
4. Contact With Your Ex Can Make You Lose Sleep
Especially if you're in a new relationship, an ex can cause serious problems if they want to just "stay friends." As relationship expert April Masini tells Bustle, "If your ex is creating stress in your current relationship, because he or she is frequently calling, stopping by and inviting you to dinner 'as friends' because they want to stay in touch and be civilized, you’d be better off without any contact." As nice as it may feel to keep in touch, it can lead to actual physical symptoms in the end, especially if your new beau isn't down with your ex. "The stress this kind of disruptive contact with an ex causes can make you lose sleep, become distracted and feel anxious because your current partner is not cool with this contact," Masini says. And if you start feeling cold-like symptoms through something like this, it may be the stress.
5. Trying To Win Your Ex Back Can Lower Your Self-Esteem
"When someone’s just been broken up with, they often feel worthless as a result of being rejected," Salama Marine, psychologist and online dating expert for dating website EliteSingles, tells Bustle. "People sometimes try to win their ex back, in order to regain their value and worth, but, sadly, this is mostly in vain." It may be in vain, but it's natural, and there's an understandable reason for it, too, she adds.
"Why do so many people turn back to their ex? Because they know that that person loved and valued them in the past, so it’s easier to go back to them instead of try to find someone new." But before you reach for the phone, beware. "Doing this, however, can be really painful, and lower your self-esteem, which is the opposite of what you should be doing in the post-breakup period." To build yourself up and gain self-esteem, do estimable acts. "It is important to maintain self-worth and, if anything, try to boost your ego," she says.
6. Distraction Can Be Devastating
First of all, sleep deprivation is not fun. And if you wind up missing the ball at work and dropping off the face of the earth, even worse. "You stop sleeping, you stop concentrating at work and you stop socializing because you are too focused on analyzing the breakup," Stefanie Safran, Chicago's "Introductionista" and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. Pretty soon, you're in your own private hell. Don't let that happen — be proactive and show up for yourself.
7. Being Stuck In The Past Is Stressful
"Most exes are exes for a reason," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "The relationship ended because it wasn't a suitable match for one or both parties." But if you're still talking to your ex — face to face, via text, on social media, whatever — you're probably not going to feel awesome, especially not at first. "Ongoing communication can easily result in higher stress levels," Rogers says. "It can prevent you from moving forward, being able to feel content and happy in the 'now,' and create unnecessary anxiety for what's next." Let things go for now. "Unless the relationship is one thousand percent platonic, it's best to keep communication at bay until both of you have moved on," she says.
8. Stalking Is Still Bad If You're The Stalker
Yes, being stalked is not OK; but neither is stalking your ex. "When you are engaging in behaviors like cyber-stalking their social media, maintaining a text relationship, not respecting the boundaries that they have set for any form or friendship that you might have, you have entered an unhealthy zone," BetterHelp telehealth counselor and psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. When you get stuck in this place, it can be hard to crawl out, but you must. "You are engaging in behaviors that are preventing you from moving on and forward in a healthy way," she says. "You also might be preventing being able to form or maintain any type of friendship that is possible in the future." And if you find yourself late-night stalking your ex's Facebook page, block them on FB. It might hurt for a second, but it's better in the long-term. Or cut yourself off from social media altogether.
9. Ending Things Badly Can Cause More Problems In Your Life
If you're in a stressful place with your ex, it can impact you — and also your friends. "A bad relationship with an ex can estrange your friends, and not having good friendships is harmful to your health," Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle. This is even worse if you happen to have kids with an ex, she adds. Just try to leave things in a cool and calm place. You'll both feel better for it.
10. A Negative Ex Can Drain Your Energy
"Negative people in general are bad for your health," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "Some, like family, will always be there in some form or another because, well, hey, they are family. But allowing a negative ex to affect your health is not on them, it’s on you." In other words, if you're allowing an ex to hang around and be awful, you're taking a vote against yourself.
"You have the choice to keep them in your life or set yourself free," Van Hochman points out. "If they are in your life and affecting it in a negative way, it is because you allow it. Allowing this to continue can be a big blow to your self-esteem. Negative people drain us of our energy, which, in turn, affects us both mentally and physically." And even if you have ended things completely and they're not in your life, they can still have an effect on you, he says. If that's happening, give it a little more time — soon, you'll feel better.