By Tunisha: Love is one of the most studied but also least understood human behavior. In this article I will help you to understand the (Neuro)Science of Love and explain to you the changes that occur in your brain are similar to addiction when you are in love and when you go through a break-up.
Breaking up with your significant other can be soul destroying and is a traumatic experience to go through no matter how you look at it. The reason it can feel so painful is because of what your brain is experiencing during and after a break-up.
In 2005, well-known biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher led a study that resulted in some groundbreaking research and showed that changes in the brain occurred when you are in-love or break-up with someone.
She analyzed MRI brain scans of 2,500 college students and looked for which part of the brain was activated when they viewed pictures of people they romantically loved vs acquaintances. When the students viewed the pictures of people that they romantically-loved the regions of the brain that were activated were the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area that are part of the “reward” circuitry and associated with feelings of pleasure and motivation. Both these areas are also rich with the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. This is why love feels like a pleasurable and almost euphoric state. These areas of the brain that are activated when you are in-love are the same primary regions also activated by someone who uses drugs or alcohol. In today’s society, addiction to substances or alcohol is seen as a negative behavior, but love is mostly perceived as a positive state.
Consequently, when the “reward” system is activated the neural pathways for fear-based negative emotions are deactivated. This is described as a primitive response and survival mechanism seen in mammals 4 million years ago to encourage pair-bonding and reproduction.
As an addition to this work, in 2011 Dr. Fisher also analyzed the brains of couples who had been married for an average of 21 years and said they were still madly in-love. What the research showed was that these same areas of the brain were still activated and richly flooded with dopamine, which was the same result as the newly in-love college students.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BREAK-UP OR YOU ARE REJECTED BY SOMEONE?
Well, romantic love can almost be viewed like an addiction. So when you feel like you are “addicted” to someone, your brain is literally sending you those same chemicals that someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs feel.
In 2016, Dr. Fisher continued her research and showed 15 young adults’ pictures of a romantic person that they had recently broken up with but still fell in-love with them. This time the MRI scans lit up different regions of the brain, including the ventral tegmental, ventral striatum and the nucleus accumbens. All these regions are part of the “reward/motivation” system as well and are regulated by the release of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.
So when love is taken away the neural system goes into overdrive activating areas of your brain associated with natural cravings. The same areas that correlate with cravings for drugs and alcohol. There is a direct link in similarity of behaviours between those that have experienced rejection in love and those going through withdrawal from addictive substances.
Other areas of the brain that feel physical pain were also lit up so again it reinforces that there is emotional and physical pain associated with heartbreak and can be as serious as the pain someone experiences with a broken bone. Heartbreak is a form of loss and people will feel the emotions of grieving. It is not uncommon to have insomnia, anxiety, depression or even suicidal thoughts; and that is why healing from break-ups should be taken seriously.
HOW CAN YOU HEAL FROM A BREAK-UP?
- Remove pictures/items that remind you of this person: viewing these can trigger the “reward” system in you again and flood you with the dopamine feelings. This in turn will lead to withdrawal and cravings.
- Block them and stop looking at their social media: you need to reduce the opportunities and temptations you have to contact this person.
- Exercise – this will flood your body and brain with endorphins to counteract the dopamine surge and give you a positive feeling.
- Reset your system – write a list of all the reasons that person was not good for you.
- See the Logic – Be honest and accept this relationship is over and realize the negative impact that relationship had on you.
- Start to heal – seeing a therapist or even an energy healer can realign you emotionally/energetically to help you on your healing journey.
As a reader, I often hear from my clients that they have been blocked or have had no communication with their love interest in a while.
Let me help you to understand why the person you are in-love with is emotionally unavailable to you.
The pain and heartache you feel is REAL and I want to help you get off that emotional roller-coaster and empower you to make the best decisions about what you can do to move forward in your love and life.
Blessings, Love and Light,
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