5 Physiological Reactions To a Breakup

When you go through a breakup did you know that chemical reactions occur at multiple levels, and can cause pain similar to breaking a bone?
5 Physiological Reactions To a Breakup

Written by Lorena González

Last update: 26 May, 2022

If you have ever gone through a breakup, you have probably experienced the five physiological reactions below. Usually these reactions would take anywhere between six months to two years to get over. However, every person reacts differently. 

1-Anxiety and insomnia

Anxiety and insomnia are the most common symptoms that follow after a breakup. This is because people feel secure when having contact with other humans. However, once a person is all alone, he/she could start feeling pain.  According to several scientific studies, this pain activates the same parts of the brain that stimulate an addiction to cocaine.

Read this too: The 3 best remedies for insomnia

2-Chest pain

Chest pain is another symptom that takes place when you undergo a breakup. The neuron signals of people who’ve recently just got out of a relationship, are identical to the those that cause physical pain after a burn.

That’s why feeling chest pain after a breakup is no surprise. This takes place because your heart function actually worsens when undergoing this traumatic experience. Therefore, it’s actually dangerous for a person who has heart disease. Likewise, adrenaline may cause irregular heartbeats.

In several studies, the MRIs of the brains of people who were going through a breakup, revealed that there was brain activity in regions that control stress and physical pain.

The researcher observed that — even though the brain sector that perceives pain related to the outside world was inactive — the systems in charge of controlling the body’s response towards pain were causing patients a lot of anguish. This takes place due to the brain releasing stress hormones, which in turn directly have an impact on the heart, digestive system, and immune system.

3-Blemishes on the skin

Skin problems such as acne are another symptom of stress that comes from a breakup. This is because you take less care of yourself during this time. Likewise, stress hormones actually worsen your skin’s health, which can cause blemishes and even hair loss.

4-Muscle pain

When you experience stress, you become more vulnerable to injury. You may even undergo muscle spasms during these situations. Therefore, this can cause your muscles to tighten or cramp and produce pain throughout the body.

5-Abnormal diet

Abnormal diet
After a breakup, many people tend to overeat or stop eating altogether. Essentially, your breakup may cause an eating disorder. This is because stress makes your cells less sensitive to insulin, thus the body will produce larger amounts of insulin and start storing fat.

Being overweight can also be related to insomnia and a lack of exercise. Stress interrupts the proper function of your digestive system. All of this may cause stomach pain and diarrhea.

Why do breakups hurt?

If you have ever wondered why a breakup causes so much pain, the answer is likely related to the chemical reactions that are triggered in the body. A breakup can even change your relationship with other people because you become anxious when interacting with them. You may undergo pain similar to a bone breaking when your significant other refuses to see you.

Consider that other types of social rejection operate more at a cognitive level. At the same time, romantic rejection is related to the same systems that cause you to feel hungry or thirsty.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Song, Hongwen et al. “Love-related changes in the brain: a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study” Frontiers in human neuroscience vol. 9 71. 13 Feb. 2015, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00071

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.