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Why Do Breakups Hurt?

Breakups hurt. They suck.

Whether we like to admit it or not, a majority of us have experienced heartbreak at some point in our lives. Being stuck in a constant loop of depressing thoughts, asking ourselves why this happened to us, losing the will to function like a normal human being; we’ve all been there.

Ever wondered why it hurts so much? Weren’t we absolutely fine before we met them? Why does their absence sting so much when we already know why it won’t work out? Why do some people need depression treatment to get over someone?

Here are a few reasons that may help you justify your emotions.

1. Emotional pain = physical pain.

Research has continuously suggested that our brains process emotional pain just like it processes physical pain.

Ever felt that heavy feeling in your chest when you’re sad? Or the inability to get out of bed?

An fMRI scan would show that the brain regions (the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula) activated when a person is grieving over their separation from a loved one are the same as those that are activated when suffering from a burn or a broken limb.

The takeaway from this is that heartbreak should probably be treated as seriously as a physical injury.

2. You are experiencing withdrawal.

When in love, being with your significant other causes the secretion of various feel-good chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin.

People in love also usually experience cravings, euphoria and dependency. These behaviours are also seen in individuals with addictive habits. Withdrawal, being one of the behaviours seen in addicts, also makes an appearance during breakups.

When you instantly cut yourself off from someone you love, your brain is unable to immediately cope with the change; hence leading to anxiety, anger, exhaustion, insomnia, and in severe cases even depression.

Looks like people aren’t kidding when they say that love is a drug.

3. It’s your brain, not you.

Studies on potential suitors experiencing rejection have shown that the brain secretes opioids – the human brain’s very own painkiller – that is also secreted during times of physical injury.

This phenomena – again – suggests that our brains process emotional trauma as a physical threat.

We are wired by evolution to, then, focus all our attention on the perceived threat, so as to not let it catch us off guard. In other words, our genius brains do this with the intent of keeping us safe, but little does it know that this doesn’t really work out in cases of heartbreak.

When in love, the secretion of the various feel-good chemicals overpowers areas of the brain that are usually responsible for critical thinking.

You are not as likely to analyse the behaviour and personality of someone you are close to critically. So, yes, love does, in fact, make you blind. It’s not entirely your fault that you didn’t notice those red flags that were right in front of you.

So, learn to not be too hard on yourself.

Remind yourself that you’re not the only one going through this. And, just like how many others have conquered this phase, you can and will, too.

How to Ease Heartbreak

Since you already know why you experience heartbreak so strongly, it’s time to go through some techniques to ease your heartbreak.

●Avoid avoidance.

Give yourself time to grieve. Lying to yourself and pretending like you are not hurt is not going to do you any good. The pain you ignore now will eventually come back with a much higher intensity, and that’s not something that you want.

●Surround yourself with the right people.

Heartbreak often comes with high anxiety levels, sadness, lack of self-esteem, and feelings of shame. So, surround yourself with people that give you exactly what you need.

Be with people that remind you of your self-worth. Know that you are not defined by this one failed relationship.

Interestingly, though, this is also one of the reasons people look for a rebound relationship. Rebounds give you a false sense of security, and promote self-esteem by making you feel wanted and attractive. This technique, however, won’t last long and is more likely to make you carry forward the cycle of heartbreak into the other person’s life.

Instead of focusing on jumping into the next relationship or even a fling, use this time to be with the people who love you for you. Be with family and friends. Cry if you have to, but don’t use having someone new right away as a form of validation.

What you need is time to heal. You need to grieve first and understand and learn from what you have been through before you can move on.

●Start exercising.

Regular physical activity or exercise can work as an alternative to fooling your brain into secreting feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. These hormones also relieve stress and can help you feel better.

Besides, exercise is one of the best stress management techniques. It will not only help you feel better and attain fitness but also aid with sleep in case you have trouble sleeping.

●Get rid of reminders.

Avoid things that remind you of your ex.

Yes, it won’t be easy to put away articles that you share a memorable bond with, but who said break-ups are easy?

Don’t stalk your ex on social media, either. If it feels right, don’t hesitate to block them, too. It may seem rude, but remind yourself that it’s time you put yourself first and prioritize your mental health.

Start your journey toward healing

Remember, this journey is not going to be easy.

The trick is to be resilient and adapt to this new change that life has brought you (in this case, the absence of your ex). In some cases, the grief may be too hard to be dealt with on your own. Don’t hesitate to reach out for emotional help.

If you need professional support, please get in touch with us.


Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.

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