Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Anatomy Of A Breakup: What Happens To Your Body During Heartbreak

What is the body part most associated with breakups? The heart. Heart break. Broken hearts. Heart ache. However, anyone who has suffered through the ending of a relationship knows the pain is not actually located in your chest. If it is, stop eating so much chili or see a doctor because you’re having a heart attack.

During a breakup numerous body parts can and will turn against you. To help our readers understand what really happens to you (not the oversimplified broken heart metaphor), we’ve created The Anatomy Of A Breakup with plenty of other new metaphors.

The Mind Becomes A Trap
You become your own worst enemy. Your mind will turn on you, often when you least expect it. It can be a nice day and you’re in a relatively good mood…then suddenly the trap springs. You’re caught in a memory about that romantic weekend in Delaware and you can’t stop ruminating on the fact you’ll never be able to enjoy Old Bay french fries the same way again.

The Eyes Become Sliced Onions
This is pretty self-explanatory. You’re gonna cry. You can’t stop it. And it’s going to be embarrassing.

The Mouth Becomes A Toilet
In an effort to eat your feelings, you’ll flush all kinds of crap down your throat: ice cream, booze (if you’re 21 and older), comfort food … the list goes on. There will come a point, though, when the feelings and food will clog your toilet and it begins overflowing. Sometimes you literally spew and other times you’ll just spew emotions all over a friend or confused co-worker.

The Gut Becomes A Septic Tank
Not only will this be the receptacle for all the horrible decisions you’re eating, but it also becomes a whirlpool of regret, nerves and bile. Nothing pleasant is ever in the septic tank.

The Hands Become Double-Edged Swords
Your hands can keep you out of trouble or put you in the worst predicaments. Use them to keep busy, it’ll help you deal with the loss. On the other side, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Sitting around and doing nothing will lead to you stalking your ex on Facebook or worse.

The Crotch Becomes The Devil
“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone.” It’s a catchy saying, but it doesn’t always work out. Just like the devil will tell you to do things you never normally would, your crotch can lead you into some dark places in an effort to feel better. You will regret many of those “dark places.”

Since the two of you split up, your head has felt like a helium balloon about to burst. A family of squirrels seems to have moved into your stomach, your heart feels as if it's clamped in a vise, and though you've emptied a bottle of the natural sleep aid melatonin, you haven't caught a wink all week. No question about it: Losing your one-and-only is a bitch. But stop clutching your chest—the real pain is coming from inside your head.

If you think you hate being dumped, your brain hates it even more. Dr. Naomi Eisenberger, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles—evidence, she says, that your head is signaling to your body that being dumped actually hurts. 

Your new singledom isn't helping any either: When you're in love, certain areas of your gray matter are happily awash in dopamine and oxytocin, hormones that give you feelings of pleasure and contentment, says Lucy Brown, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. But when your guy suddenly takes off, your supply of those feel-good natural chemicals starts to tumble, leaving you more vulnerable to a whole herd of uncompromising stress hormones.

During any upsetting experience, your brain pumps out cortisol, epinephrine, and other stress hormones, which, in limited quantity, help you react quickly to dangerous situations (like when a car is cutting you off on the highway).
However, under long-term trauma, such as heartbreak, accumulating amounts can turn harmful. An overabundance of cortisol tells your brain to send too much blood to your muscles, causing them to tense up, ostensibly for swift action. But you're not leaping anywhere, and as a result you're plagued with swollen muscles that can lead to headaches, a stiff neck, and that awful squeezing sensation in your chest.

Cortisol also diverts blood away from your digestive track, leaving you with some serious GI unpleasantness. And to add insult to injury, an overkill of stress hormones can impede your immune system, making you more vulnerable to rogue bacteria and viruses—hence the all-too-common postrelationship cold.

The particular kind of walloping you suffer also has to do with how your body generally reacts to stress, says Laura Miller, M.D., director of women's mental health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. If you have a sensitive stomach, you could be prone to breakup cramps, appetite loss, or diarrhea. 

If you have asthma, you might reach for your inhaler more often; gobs of stress hormones can send your bronchial tubes into overdrive. And if you happen to have an addictive personality, you may feel as shaky as a heroin junkie in rehab, because the area of your brain that processes cravings and addictions is also activated by breakups, according to Brown's recent research.

The good news:

  • Though you may feel emotionally trampled for a while, you can at least ease your body's pain. And we don't mean with latenight clubbing, nacho binges, and other indulgences, which can lead to more physical woes, such as rapid heartbeat and extreme fatigue, says Gary L. Malone, M.D., chief of psychiatry at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

  •  Instead, take over-the-counter meds for your pounding head and queasy stomach—or better yet, teach yourself some relaxation techniques (like deep breathing) to calm your nervous system. And curb those wild stress hormones by pulling yourself off the couch for some aerobic exercise, Miller advises. 

  • Working out prompts your brain to release uplifting endorphins. Better yet, take a trash-talking friend with you; camaraderie can incite a much-needed pop of your missing oxytocin. 

  • "One thing you shouldn't do is lock yourself in a room," says Gary Lewandowski, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University in New Jersey. "Self-imposed exile will only make things worse." He advises getting back into some of your favorite pastimes and activities, because doing anything enjoyable can help rev your brain's dopamine system.
  •  If you can't disassociate your old passions from moments spent with your ex, take it as an opportunity to try something completely new, like that drawing class or bicycling club you've been coveting (consider how ridiculous he'd look in spandex). Says Lewandowski: "Whatever cheers the mind may help cure the body." 
from: Women's health mag.

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