We have probably all experienced romantic heart break in one way or another. Romantic rejection can be extremely painful and lead to feelings of loss and even depression. A recent study can shed some light on why that breakup can hurt so much. A group of neuroscientists conducted FMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) on 15 individuals that recently experienced a breakup from someone they reportedly still loved. When viewing a picture of their lost love, participant’s brains would be activated in the area of emotional regulation and loss including the ventral tegmental area (VTA) bilaterally, ventral striatum, medial and lateral orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, and cingulate gyrus. These brain areas also happen to be activated during withdrawal symptoms of a frequent cocaine user.
So, what does this mean? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that love can be a drug or that you can be addicted to love. But it does mean that the reward pathways in the brain can function somewhat similarly between drug use and love. Most importantly, feelings of rejection from a lover can be painful for your emotional and cognitive state.
What might that lead to? It will probably increase your desire for your former partner even more than before you broke up. It may also lead you to want to fulfill that “craving” through another romantic relationship (rebound). The good news is that the emotional pain will subside just like withdrawal symptoms do. But just as someone may need detox to overcome their withdrawal, you may need alot of support from friends and family to overcome the loss of the relationship. Oh, and don’t try to heal your romantic breakup with a cocaine habit.