Can A Broken Heart Make You Sick? It's More Dangerous Than You Think, So Here's How To Heal
Breakups can cause some of the worst emotional pain imaginable. It may sound super dramatic, but for anyone who's ever gone through heartbreak, it's too true. But just how dangerous is having a broken heart? Studies have found that broken heart syndrome is very real in the way you can start experiencing physical symptoms similar to depression. Now, new research published in the journal Crisis found that having a broken heart can not only lead to depression but it can also up the risk of suicide. So having a broken heart may be more dangerous thank you initially think.
"Heartbreak can indeed have adverse effects on your health, especially when your brain processes it as trauma or traumatic," Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shawna Young, LMFT tells Bustle. "If they are not able to process it in a healthy manner with a therapist or by taking time for adequate self-care and healing, they can undergo high levels of stress which releases cortisol in the body." High cortisol levels can contribute to several things like fatigue, anxiety, depression, headaches, and high blood pressure, Young says.
So heartbreak can cause physical harm to your body, but what about emotional harm? Researchers from Purdue and Kansas State University conducted a study of over 200 adults who had experienced a recent romantic breakup to examine any links between heartbreak and suicide risk. Each participant was given a questionnaire that measured them for suicide risk, depression, and level of perceived self-efficacy. They were also asked about their levels of investment and commitment in their relationship before it ended. Unsurprisingly, those who had stronger levels of commitment and investment had significantly higher levels of depression post-breakup. It was also found that those who had higher levels of depression were at a higher risk for suicide.
Although the study's authors say the links between relationship endings and depression or depression and suicide are nothing new, it's important to consider how invested and committed you were to your relationship in order to get through the healing process. For instance, if you were extremely invested and committed, processing heartbreak might require professional help to learn healthy coping skills over someone who wasn't too committed or invested.
Nobody says dealing with heartbreak is easy. So here are some ways to help you heal, according to experts:
1. Open Yourself Up To Others
"The heart is a different organ than the rest; it wants to be loved and give love," certified wellness and health counselor, Claudia Matles tells Bustle. "When we share our pain and vulnerability, we then help open the gate for deeper connections."
Heartbreak can make us feel separated and disconnected, Matles says. So by sharing your emotions with other people, you're allowing yourself to heal through connection.
2. Allow Yourself To Feel Pain Without Labelling It
A broken heart is painful and ignoring that pain is really only a temporary solution. It's important to allow yourself to feel the sensations of pain without labelling it, Matles says. "When we label our pain by saying, 'I’m so heartbroken,' we then identify ourselves with this label and the intensity of the feelings remain," she says. "But if we create the space to just be with the feelings, the sensations will soften."
It's OK to allow yourself to feel — just don't keep holding on to the fact that you're "sad" or "heartbroken." That way, it's easier to let those feelings go when you've fully processed them.
3. Find Your New Normal
When you're in a long-term relationship, that becomes part of your every day life. But when a huge shake-up like a breakup happens, life suddenly becomes different. "During a breakup, a lot of different feeling can come up like a sense of loss, depression, sadness, and low self esteem. This is totally normal and part of the healing process," relationship expert Dr. Megan Stubbs tells Bustle. "You just have to take time to let yourself mourn and find out what your new normal is."
Figuring it out won't happen overnight, but as Stubbs says, "This doesn't mean you can't binge on romance movies and kill off a pint of ice cream, but take little steps daily to improve your situation. Treat your body and yourself with kindness."
4. Get Help From An App
"One of my favorite resources for healing heartbreak is the Mend app," Stubbs tells Bustle. "This innovative app is great because it walks you through a plan to heal your broken heart with thoughtful audio trainings and journal entries. It's a great way to process a break up and it's nice to look back on all of the progress you've made."
5. Meditate And Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. When you're able to clear your mind from anything that causes you stress, such as heartbreak, you can be on your way towards healing. One really easy way to practice mindfulness daily is to meditate. "Notice that there is more to life than your heartbreak, even it seems all-consuming," Jessica Graham, sex and intimacy guide and author, tells Bustle. Suffering is decreased when you expand your perception of daily life. Notice what is going well. Notice relaxation in your body. Notice the sounds of wind in the trees. Your heartbreak is only a small part of what is happening."
If you want to get into meditation, Graham says all you have to do is start with five minutes a day. "It’s a common misconception that to meditate, you need to sit for long periods of time in the morning, but that’s not true," she says. You can meditate anytime and anywhere for as little as one minute. The key is to simply start practicing.
6. Commit To Taking Care Of Yourself In Very Specific Ways
After a breakup, it's important to refocus all that attention and energy you used to shower onto your ex into yourself. One way to do that is to get in a daily habit of listing out three manageable ways to practice self-care.
"In the long-term, making this a part of your daily routine means you never have to depend on someone else for the basic (those little things that add up to your sense of wellbeing)," Jane Reardon, licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup app, tells Bustle. Your list can include anything like hiking with a friend, starting a new book, taking an art class, or even getting your car washed. "It doesn’t really matter what you do," she says. "Doing something and engaging in an activity that gives you hope has an impact and will help you heal. Everything counts as long as it makes you feel better about being you."
Ending a relationship, especially one that you've invested a lot of time and energy in, can seem like the end of the world. But just remember, it's really not. If you can focus on loving yourself, you might find that the healing process will get a lot easier.