We all know those vomit-inducing couples who finish each other's sentences and seem to be attached at the hip.
"Get a room!"
You'd be surprised if either of them could bounce back to normal after a breakup. After all, can they even remember where their personality ends and their partner's begins?
Well, it turns out it's not just the disgustingly clingy couples who have to worry about this problem. Any loving relationship, no matter how short, completely messes with your sense of self. There's a reason why ending it feels like waking up in a bathtub full of ice and finding one of your kidneys has been stolen.
How Bad Can it Be?
Three different studies have found that after a relationship ends people tend to go through a serious identity crisis. No matter how strong or independent you think you are or you were before the relationship, your ability to know who you are gets thrown totally out of whack after a breakup. Whether you realize it or not, in your brain your significant other's personality started to merge with yours. Despite the terrible cliche, they really are "your other half."
To put it in the nerdiest terms possible, they are the Spock to your Kirk.
So why does this even matter? "Self-concept clarity," while not something you've probably ever thought about before, actually affects your life in massive ways. People who don't really know who they are tend to be more depressed, think less of themselves and are more likely to make rash decisions or changes that might not be good for them.
Sometimes this can lead to good things after a breakup, like a decision to lose weight. Other times it leads to rushing into rebound relationships, career or school changes, or drastic image changes.
Pray that you only wind up with a tattoo.
Sure, breaking up sucks, but any annoyingly peppy optimist knows that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Too bad for them then that breaking up really can break your heart. And not just in a sappy metaphorical way; in a real, honest to god, kill you dead way.
Just another way that love is like being pounced on by a lion in the savannah.
Yes, scientists have found that it is actually possible to die of a broken heart.
Breakups are high stress situations. Your body reacts by releasing a huge surge of adrenaline, its typical fight or flight response. That's fine though, because thousands of years of evolution means your body totally knows exactly what it is doing, right? Well, not really.
How Bad Can it Be?
Too much of that adrenaline can overwhelm your heart muscles and lead to spasms and some pretty serious complications. And that's when you get admitted to the hospital with all the classic symptoms of heart attacks: intense pain on your left side, increased blood clotting, high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Scientists have finally figured out that losing a loved one through death or breaking up is a main cause of these phantom heart attacks.
"Carl, we need to see other people... Carl?"
They even gave it a name fit for a fairy tale: broken-heart syndrome.
Victims can only be revived by love's true kiss. Or a defibrillator.
The initial effect of all that adrenaline and heart spasms isn't actually a heart attack, but if it goes on for long enough the pressure on your heart could cause one. All because your body thinks that breaking up with Chad from the Apple Store requires the same physical exertion as running from a goddamned tiger.
Even if your heart doesn't explode, it's normal to feel a little under the weather after a breakup. After all, you just went through some pretty traumatic emotional stress. However, that sadness you're feeling might lead to actual sickness. It's not all in your head: As we get more depressed, our immune system reacts in really weird ways, leading to an increased chance of getting sick.
But the worst-case scenario isn't just puking all over your ex when you run into her.
How Bad Can it Be?
Just a little thing called cancer. You heard that right. On top of the normal sniffles that can result from a suppressed immune system, scientists think that depression can cause and/or exacerbate cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Which means listening to Johnny Cash sing "Hurt" probably causes some form of osteo-cance-ritis.
And it turns out that breakups are more likely to send you spiraling into depression than just about anything else. Apparently this is because we are more likely to fixate on events that are painful and hurt our self-esteem than on events that are just emotionally difficult. So, according to the study, the death of a close family member actually affects you less than someone dumping you.
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For more reasons to get in or stay in a relationship, check out 5 Reasons Being Single Sucks Even More Than You Thought. And learn about some iconic romances that are doomed, in 5 Movie Romances That Won't Last (According to Science).
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