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FYI, It Actually *Is* Possible to Get Sick from Heartbreak

lovesickness, lovesickness definition, lovesickness meaning, what is lovesickness
Feeling Lovesick? Right This Wayarchy13 - Getty Images

Picture this: It’s 3 a.m., and instead of blissfully snoozing beneath your sleep mask (...or adding a bunch of viral TikTok finds to your cart), you’re deep in the trenches of your feelings, wrestling with the kind of heartache no amount of beauty sleep or online shopping can heal. Welcome to the not-so-exclusive club of the lovesick, bb, where the main activities include over-analyzing text messages, obsessing about ~the one that got away~, and wondering if your soulmate is really out there. Bleak, right? That’s because, hi, lovesickness is a real thing, and unfortunately for all of us, it hurts like hell.

“Lovesickness describes the intense emotional and physical experiences associated with romantic love,” says Sarah Hill, PhD, a research psychologist and consultant for Cougar Life, specializing in women’s health and sexual psychology. “The symptoms resemble those of a physical illness because of the profound links between the mind and body.” You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you feel depressed, and the thought of doing anything other than crying in bed and watching Love is Blind seems impossible. Sound familiar?

Even though the term isn’t a recognized medical diagnosis, Hill stresses that it’s a very real, very painful mental ailment. To put it bluntly, being lovesick makes it feel like your heart got hit by a semi-truck. Whether you’re trying to get over a breakup, grappling with unrequited love, or coming to terms with a going-nowhere situationship, lovesickness isn't just for the dramatically inclined—it's a legit rollercoaster of physical and emotional symptoms that can leave even the strongest among us reeling.

The silver lining? While lovesickness is your body and mind grappling with loss, remember, you're not spiraling alone—you’ve got us! And with the help of relationship pros, we’re breaking down every damn thing you need to know about lovesickness, from what it is to how to heal. Stick with us, y’all, because happier days are on the horizon, no matter how lovesick you feel rn.

What Actually *Is* Lovesickness?

As the name suggests, lovesickness is the feeling of being “sick” due to the loss or lack of romantic love. Again, it’s not an official medical or clinical condition, but holistic relationship coach Alexandra Roxo stresses just how uncomfortable the experience can be.

“It’s the point where emotional pain turns to physical pain after going through a breakup, heartbreak, or a separation,” she says. While heartbreak—an existential experience—makes you feel sad, Roxo says the difference is that lovesickness is usually described as the physiological response to that heartbreak. Feeling lovesick means you might find it hard to eat, sleep, work, or even have fun. Food might lose its taste, music might sound flat, and you might even experience real symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety. So, no! You’re not being dramatic! Your body *literally* feels sick from lost love, dammit!

The term is sometimes mistaken for limerence—an obsessive form of love—but lovesickness primarily stems from the absence of love, triggering a feeling similar to that experienced from addictive substances. "Being lovesick can feel akin to the withdrawal symptoms from opioid drugs,” Hill explains, “As both scenarios involve a lack of stimulus that usually activates the brain's reward centers, leading to a dopamine withdrawal.”

While this all sounds, frankly, miserable, it’s important to note that feeling lovesick is actually totally normal. “Both lovesickness and heartbreak can be intense and distressing emotional experiences, but they are also natural responses to the complexities of relationships,” Hill says. Knowing how to heal is key, and curing your lovesickness is possible. Promise.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lovesickness?

Feeling lovesick isn’t just about wallowing in your feelings post-breakup (but, like, that’s totally valid too). According to Hill and Roxo, the symptoms of lovesickness can—and likely will—vary from person to person, ranging from mood swings to sleeplessness to yearning for your former partner. Sometimes, you might feel fine, and other times, you feel like you’re on autopilot or have a hard time functioning in daily life.

So, if you find yourself wanting to call out of work because your heart literally hurts, there’s a chance you’re feeling lovesick. While the signs of lovesickness aren’t always obvious, here’s what the pros say to look out for:

  • Difficulty sleeping: Your love interest's absence can disrupt your sleep cycle, making it hard to fall or stay asleep.

  • Restlessness and anxiety: A constant state of unease, especially after the breakup or when exposed to triggers? Check.

  • Inability to concentrate: Your thoughts might be consumed by your partner or your breakup, distracting you from any and all tasks at hand.

  • Increased tearfulness: You might find yourself crying over songs, random memories, or simply out of nowhere. Inconvenient, sure, but normal.

  • Pain or tension in the chest: This can be a physical manifestation of your emotional pain (but if it persists, feels uncomfortable, or intensifies, reach out to your doctor ASAP).

  • Mood and appetite changes: Swings in mood and changes in appetite are A Real Response, often leading to eating too little or too much.

  • Obsessive thoughts and idealization: You may find yourself putting the relationship on a pedestal or obsessing over what went wrong.

Understanding these symptoms is the first step toward healing, and can empower you to take steps toward recovery and eventually find balance and happiness again. Because, yes! You will be happy again!

How Do You Heal from Lovesickness?

Dealing with lovesickness can feel like you're wading through emotional quicksand, but there *are* effective ways to pull yourself out and move forward. Let's break down some expert-backed strategies to heal from lovesickness and find your footing again.

Be Kind to Yourself.

First and foremost, be gentle with yourself. Lovesickness can take a toll not just emotionally, but physically too. Roxo suggests giving yourself plenty of extra TLC. Eat soothing foods, take bubble baths, get a massage, or cuddle with your pet for some quality physical touch. Don’t be afraid to feel your feelings—so cue up that sad playlist or watch some breakup movies—but Roxo says to schedule something uplifting afterward (like coffee with a pal) to help balance your emotions.

Set Boundaries…and Stick To Them.

As hard as it might be to delete a number or block an account, Hill emphasizes the importance of the whole out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing. Delete the pics, toss the mementos, and try to keep contact to an absolute minimum. Setting healthy boundaries for yourself—whatever that looks like to you—during this time is key, and once you’ve decided that you’re not going to talk to your ex and that you’re going to avoid stalking their socials, stick to it!

Sweat It Out.

I realize working out whilst sad sounds like agony, but physical activity can actually be a crucial component of healing. "Exercise, especially cardio, can significantly improve your brain chemistry, helping to alleviate the fog of lovesickness," Roxo says. She recommends incorporating upbeat music into your workouts to elevate your mood further.

Have Fun. Seriously.

Since lovesickness is often a dopamine withdrawal, rediscovering joy and pleasure outside of your romantic relationships is crucial to overcoming the ailment. Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, going on a trip, or reading everything trending on BookTok, find fun new activities to look forward to. And if the idea of a rebound relationship sounds alluring (which is okay!), Hill suggests taking things slow and dating people different from your former partner. “Opening yourself up to new experiences can encourage healing," says Hill.

Ask For Help.

Remember, it's more than okay to ask for help during this challenging time. Whether it’s a friend or a professional, having someone to act as a sounding board and uplift you when you feel low is paramount. In fact, Roxo encourages reaching out to a therapist or coach who can support you through this transition. "This period of pain could very well be a pivotal moment leading to a breakthrough in your love life," she says. What's important is taking proactive steps towards recovery, allowing yourself to grieve, and gradually opening your heart to the possibility of love again.

How Long Does Lovesickness Last?

The truth is, there’s no universal clock for recovering from lovesickness. Some of us might shake it off in a few weeks, while others might be in the trenches for far longer. As Roxo puts it, “The acute symptoms usually start to chill out after a week or two, but really, lovesickness fades in time, depending on how you deal with it.”

While you might wish for a magic potion to speed up the process (don’t we all?), everyone mends at their own pace. It’s a journey, but trust the process. Your heart didn’t come with a fast-forward button, but it’s equipped with resilience and the capacity to heal. You got this.

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