I think it’s almost a rite of passage, really. The break-up. Crying on the bathroom floor, staring at yourself in the mirror, latching onto a mantra that you repeat over and over in between sobs, the obsessive Facebook stalking that always end up in looking through photos of you and your now-ex. It’s an emotional and physical dive bomb from the cloud 9 you thought you were in, but now, there’s science to back up why you feel so absolutely shitty after a break up and proving there really is a light at the end of the Tunnel-of-Love. Science, I tell you! Things are about to get dramatic.
Women’s Health explained the actual, physical reasons behind the pain we experience when the emotions we feel post-split start to claw their ways out like hungry zombies of lovers passed.
(There’s a happy ending to this, I promise)
The Brain In All Its Glory
The mastermind behind all these emotional reactions to the dumping of your love-life, your brain, gets lit up like a back-corner pinball machine. That whole longing feeling you get when you’re alone? Yeah, there’s actually a whole goddamn command center in your brain that is solely there to create that feeling. Thanks, evolution. It demands attention more than a two year old with separation anxiety and you can’t help but indulge its needs with a 2-hour-long Facebook stalk session with your new boyfriends Ben & Jerry snuggled up between your sweatpants-clad thighs.
This brings us to the physical, achy-all-over feeling you get. Break ups and rejection hurt in the metaphorical heart but also in the physical joints. Blood flow gets sent to two other parts of the brain that are the ones to blame and are responsible for your pain. Literally. The secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula are both involved in your body’s pain production.
Stress and Your Skin
The stress of rejection, while of your own manufacture, can actually cause physical problems besides the chemical imbalance it’s causing between cortexes of your brain. Stress is bad news for your immune and digestive systems, your skin and your hair.
Digestion slows. Your appetite squelches, save for the ice cream and chocolate you can’t help but shovel through your snot-and-saline soaked lips.
Colds often follow break ups because the parts of your immune system that actually fight off viruses are losing steam as the stress builds. Another glamorous accessory to this hormonal and chemically induced stupor is the possibility of a cold sore!
The hormones that are running rampant through your grief-stricken body are ones of the pore-clogging variety as well so expect a killer case of crater-face.
A New Hope
Thankfully, there is a small flashlight beam of hope for normalcy post-break-up. If you were about to give up on your ol’ noggin because of its overly dramatic response to a dumping, don’t just yet! Within the depths of your left prefrontal cortex, a sign of optimism will flicker as the split fades to a memory and normal emotional responses surpass stress-induced chemical reactions. This is the part of the brain that creates reassessment and evaluation and you should thank it for starting the wheel of post-break-up pick-me-ups. A tiny whisper in the back of your mind telling you that you’ll be okay will soon gather the courage to speak up, like Obi Wan to Luke as he prepared to destroy the Death Star and save the Rebels.
So it seems like mostly what we’ve learned here is that your brain is the main reason you feel so crappy after a break-up but it will also be the thing getting you out of the post-dump funk you’ll inevitably be in because it’s apparently unavoidable. So don’t worry, it’s natural.