Physical Symptoms of Grief

physical symptoms of grief

At some point, everyone loses somebody they love. Whether a parent, friend, or child passes away, the experience of mourning can be all-consuming. You may be surprised to learn that bereavement can be a full-body experience, complete with fatigue, nausea, and listlessness. Here’s what you need to know about the physical symptoms of grief in men.

When Heartache is Real

For decades, researchers have analyzed the impact of grief on the human body. They’ve made a few promising discoveries, summarized here:

  • Grief can increase inflammation, which may exacerbate existing health issues.
  • It increases vulnerability to disease among older adults.
  • Losing someone increases cortisol production, resulting in higher stress levels.
  • Grief intensifies physical pain, appetite loss, and likelihood of blood clots.
  • Experiencing a loss heightens the incidence of “self-medication,” which is the process of drinking or using drugs to escape reality.

Some of these life-threatening symptoms can come on quickly. One 2012 study showed that the risk of heart attack increases by 21 times in the day after the loss of a loved one. It stays six times higher throughout the following week.

“Broken heart syndrome” is another concern. Emotional stress can cause chambers of the heart to expand, triggering physical sensations that mimic a heart attack. While this condition is generally reversible, it should be a clear illustration of the danger faced by men after the death of their partners, friends, or pets.

Physical Symptoms of Grief

Not all physical symptoms of grief are this severe. Most men will experience some level of bodily discomfort as they process a loss. Typically, this looks like:

  • Stomach pain and nausea
  • Loss of appetite and weight fluctuation
  • Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
  • Dry mouth
  • Throat feeling “tight”
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Crying and sighing
  • Aches and pains without physical cause
  • Chest pain and difficulty breathing

The ongoing pain associated with a death in the family can push some men to drink or use drugs. This form of self-medication is both dangerous and destructive. It stops people from moving through the stages of grief, accepting their loss, and deciding to move forward. It also increases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder or aggravating an existing mental illness. Men who have begun coping in this fashion should contact a licensed dual diagnosis treatment center for immediate care.

How to Find Peace After a Loss

Avoiding the complications of grief requires a bit of self-care. The first step is to surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family. They can keep you company, pitch in with significant chores, and assist you in some of the biggest challenges faced after a loss (like cleaning out your loved one’s clothes and belongings). Community can make an incredible difference in your experience after a traumatic event.

Next, try to do things that are good for your body and soul. We recommend regularly exercising, which releases feel-good endorphins and alleviates symptoms of depression. Eat healthy, hearty meals and try to avoid binging on comfort foods. Fueling your body properly will empower you to adapt to life after loss.

Finally, remember that professional help is available. Some people experience prolonged or complicated grief, which require intervention from a trained psychologist. Mental health providers can help you to unpack your feelings, open up about your loved one, and resolve complex emotions.

Suffering from Physical Symptoms of Grief?

While it may feel impossible right now, things will get better. Your loved one would want you to live a happy, healthy life free from substance use or mental illness. PACE Recovery Center offers a haven for young men struggling with physical symptoms of grief, addiction, and more. To learn more about our comprehensive, fully individualized programming, contact our admissions office. 

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