THE BLOG

Shot Through the Heart: Relationship Trauma's Real Effects

06/05/2015 12:18 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2016

You feel like someone's just punched you in the gut. You feel your heart drop. Tears begin to well up in your eyes as they walk away for the last time. It's done. You're finished. Your relationship has ended.

Ending a relationship sucks no matter who you are. Whether you break up with them or they break up with you, no one wants to have that conversation of guilt and sadness. If you break up with them, all the blame seems to be on you in the moment and you probably don't feel so hot about telling someone that you're not into them anymore.

If you get broken up with, the sense of dread that can accompany the anticipation of the conversation or the crushing revelation in the moment can be overwhelming. You might try to keep your cool and not cry, but your heart just won't let you. For days afterward, you're anxious. You can't sleep. You're crying all the time. You have increased or decreased appetite. Thoughts of guilt and depression slip in and out of your head. You're a wreck.

If you've had the fortune to never have had to go through this, you are envied by many in the collegiate world. According to James Madison University, male college students tend to have approximately five romantic relationships and women usually have around three. This coincides with an increase in women on college campuses and decrease in male presence. Since there are fewer men and more women, the men are more likely to date, but with such a large pool of women, the women tend to date less and have more competition.

Of course with fewer men and more women, breakups are bound to occur. This unfortunate reality hits some harder than others. The duration of the romantic relationship does not always correlate to the severity of the breakup. Instead, the intensity of a bond established with the other person will directly correlate with the intensity of symptoms experienced after a breakup.

Some factors affecting speed and intensity of emotional bonding include the amount of time spent with the other person in person or over the phone and physical contact. According to PsychologyToday, physical contact with your partner can increase intimacy and bonding through the neurotransmitters oxytocin and dopamine. With this release of dopamine, a simple region of the brain called the limbic system begins to associate that person with dopamine release and seeks out that person.

So when you have a breakup, your brain can go into panic mode. This fight or flight response releases cortisol and adrenaline into your system, increasing your heartrate and preparing you to run away or hit someone. Some breakups can even induce the extreme response of panic attacks in susceptible people.

Physically, some people experience nausea, tears, headaches, and gastrointestinal distress during breakups. Mentally, symptoms can include depression, anxiety, and insomnia. In rare cases, extreme trauma can actually cause undue stress to the heart increasing the risk of heart failure. Yes, that means you can literally die of a broken heart, but don't start dialing 911 just yet. The incidence of reported cases for this is lower than 2 percent and the number of reported deaths from it are so infinitesimally small so as to be unmeasurable.

Some very common behavior post breakup includes appetite changes. Many people report eating excessive amounts of food. This is likely due to the release of dopamine when eating certain foods, so-called comfort foods. These can disable the stress, but of course the increased calorie intake is not often balanced against increased physical activity. Quite the opposite is true for many. With an increase in cortisol and lack of dopamine in the body, you are more likely to feel sluggish and not want to leave your bed. Because of increased stress, it is also possible to see a significant decrease in appetite. Coupled with inactivity, breakups can get very unhealthy, very quickly.

With all this struggle from a breakup, students can expect serious repercussions on their schoolwork. Students report increased difficulty concentrating on schoolwork and studying. With emotional trauma from a breakup, the mind may conjure up associated images with the stress. Unfortunately, that is usually memories with your ex. No one needs or wants it.

When you go through a breakup, send out the SOS signals. Get your friends and family involved. Pull in someone to bring you some chocolate and watch Netflix with you. Get out and do something fun. Go to a theme park and ride some rollercoasters. I dare you to think of your ex while you're flying around a curve at 80 mph.

Make sure that you don't fall into a funk of lying in your bed and wishing everything was just back to the way it was before. Get up and get active.