Signs of a Broken Heart

Depression, physical symptoms, anxiety and poor work performance can all be signs of a broken heart. Suffering a breakup is one of the most stressful life events a person can experience. It is important to understand the symptoms of a broken heart are normal and should only last for a few weeks to a couple of months. Some people need to resort to additional resources, such as therapy, that can help them move on with their lives.

A solemn woman reflecting on the couch. (Image: NADOFOTOS/iStock/Getty Images)

Illness and a Suppressed Immune System

Being sick with the flu, having gastrointestinal issues, or a feeling of general malaise can all be symptoms of a heartbreak. When experiencing a breakup, the body is subject to acute stress that can have detrimental effects. "When the body is under stress, it boosts production of cortisol to support a 'fight or flight' response," says UCLA researcher Rita Effros. "If the hormone remains elevated in the bloodstream for long periods of time, though, it wears down the immune system." A worn-down immune system paired with a lack of appetite, which is also very common in breakups, will result in a body that is very susceptible to many viruses it may come in contact with.

Real Physical Pain

Many people complain of actual physical pain when going through a heartbreak. Whether you experience chest pains, stomach ache or feel like your heart is truly aching, these can all be symptoms of your broken heart. Research has consistently shown that this pain is real and present. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that romantic rejection activates the same regions of the brain that respond to physical pain. Understanding that it is normal to react physically to the stress caused by a breakup can be the first step in finding relief.

Anxiety and Restlessness

Another common symptom of a broken heart is anxiety, restlessness or desperation. The activation of your body's "flight or fight" response results in a faster metabolism and increased heart rate, which can lead to feeling shaky, breathless and anxious. Other common symptoms of anxiety after a breakup include muscle tension, headache, sweating, nausea, brain fog, impaired judgment and fear. If you already suffer from an anxiety disorder, it is normal to find an increase in your symptoms after a separation. Anxiety that lasts for more than a couple of weeks and interferes with a person's daily life can be more than a side effect of heartbreak.

Insomnia

Having trouble sleeping is a common symptom of a broken heart. Racing thoughts combined with anxiety, physical symptoms and a change in your sleeping arrangements are the culprits of your inability to sleep. Most people will experience trouble sleeping for the first few weeks after a breakup while they are adjusting to changes. Others find themselves consulting with their doctor or taking medication to help them deal with insomnia.

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