If you've ever been in a fight (and I'm assuming most people have, because nobody's perfect), you know the toll it takes on everyone involved. More often than not, you're left mentally exhausted after having it out with a partner, a friend, or a family member. But did you know that fighting can affect your body too? There are certain things that happen to your body when you fight that'll make you think twice before diving headfirst into the next family argument you find yourself witnessing. (And with the holidays right around the corner, it might not be bad to read up on how fighting affects your body, so you can prepare several nonchalant ways of shimmying out of family fights and save your body some grief while you're at it.)
Though you might think that your brain is the most affected by fighting, the effects of stress and negative energy on your body can affect much, much more than just your mind. Rather than writing those aches and pains off, read on to find out what happens to your body when you fight, so you can recognize the symptoms if (and when) you find yourself in the midst of a fight that's wreaking havoc on your mind and your body, and take the best course of action to fix and prevent it from happening in the future.
1. You Deal With Chest Pain
A study done at the at the University of California Berkeley showed that spouses who seethed in anger during fights were more likely to report symptoms of cardiac problems and chest pain after their fights. Dr. Robert Levenson, an oncologist and the senior author of the study, told The New York Times that anger can raise pulse rates and can cause other biological reactions that can stress the heart over time.
2. You Suffer From Back Pain
In the same study, Levenson and his colleagues found that those who stonewalled rather than seething were more prone to back pain and other muscular problems, due to the build up of stress in their muscles during fighting.
3. You Have Headaches & Neck Pain
The American Psychological Association reported that sudden onsets of stress can cause your muscles to tense up all at once, bringing you neck pain that can alternatively cause chronic tension and tension-headaches. If you find yourself fighting often, it can cause chronic stress which can cause your muscles to be in a state of constant guardedness, and constant tension.
4. You Clench Your Teeth
According to Mic, when you become angry at your partner, stress and muscle tension in your upper body can result in clenching your teeth. And as the American Academy of Oral Medicine noted, consistent teeth clenching can result in visible wear on your teeth over time.
5. Your Heart Rate Elevates
When you fight, your cardiovascular system has an immediate response to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, acute and short-term stress, causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle. Once the acute stress passes, your body will return to its normal state. But if you find yourself fighting often, with constant stress, it may lead to long term heart problems down the road.
6. Your Blood Pressure Spikes
In addition to the elevated heart rate, the blood vessels that direct blood to your muscles and heart increase their work too. Because of this, your blood pressure experiences a spike whenever you fight. In a study published by the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found direct correlation between subjects in happy marriages, those with more manageable blood pressure. Alternatively, the researchers found that negative discussions (i.e., fighting) evoked larger increases in systolic blood pressure.
7. Your Deal With Vocal Strain
It's too easy when you're in the throes of a fight to raise your voice and resort to yelling. Though the occasional crescendo of sparring with your partner won't do much long term damage on your voice, if you're constantly fighting with your partner, it could become a problem. Overuse and abuse of your vocal chords can cause the formation of nodules in your throat that may need to be removed surgically, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
8. Your Immune System Goes Crazy
Though you may think stress can run you down (and you're right about that), a tiny bit of stress can actually boost your immune system, according to a Stanford study. It was noted that, "short-term stress — the fight-or-flight response, a mobilization of bodily resources lasting minutes or hours in response to immediate threats — stimulates immune activity." On the other hand, the study noted that too much stress over a long period of time can take a toll on your immune system, causing it to crash. If you're in a long-term rough patch with your partner, or a friend, or a family member, you may be more susceptible to sickness because of the state of your immune system.
9. You Suffer From Stomach Pain & Nausea
Your stomach is a sensitive organ, especially when it comes to how it's affected by your moods. When you're stressed, your stomach is one of the first things to feel the effects. Sharp pains, poor digestion, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea, can all be symptoms you may experience when you're fighting, according to the American Psychological Association. So the next time you feel nauseous during a fight? You're not overreacting, it's simply one of the ways your body reacts to stress.