It’s been months since you and your ex broke up, but the emotional turmoil is still present every time you hear the song you shared. It drives you to vivid memories of the moment that changed your outlook on life. Your capacity to see fierce love in the gaze of their eyes emerges in your mind now. Your senses are overwhelmed, you start to loose breathe, your pupils dilate, vision blurs and tears begin falling.
You are paralyzed, but your will to move forward encourages you to delete your special song from your library. You are facing life as a newly single person, and this is just one of the many adjustments you will have to make. You’ve been told adversity can lead to personal growth, self-discovery, and a fulfilling life. Here’s to hoping.
You message friends to distract you from your loneliness, your pain, and more, your fear. But, damn, it’s difficult to reorient your perspective when you can’t seem to relinquish these lyrics from your lips.
This is the most difficult transition you’ll make in your life. You are the only person who will understand your connection to the person you shared your previous life with, and you want to keep those good memories around, even if they blur the murky days. You begrudgingly repurchase the song before the tears have stopped. Your world is intact. You are still just as addicted to your ex as you were this morning.
Science tells us that there are classic symptoms you and your ex are going through after you break up that are very similar to the way an addicted mind withdrawals.
This is what the brain is doing as you are going through your personal saga:
- Being in love fills your brain with dopamine, the “pleasure chemical."? Dopamine levels also increase with stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines. This is often why people feel “addicted"? to their lover and crave them in their absence.
- According to researchers from Stony Brook University, your inability to let go can be blamed on your nucleus accumbens, the area of your brain associated with reward, which researchers believe is fostering that addiction to your ex.
- Every time you are reminded of your ex, you are triggering your brain to make connections in association with your ex lover. Reseaercher Ronald Kotulak describes how the brain thrives on feedback from its environment. It wires itself into a thinking and emotional organ from the things it experiences – the sounds, sights, touches, smells, and tastes that come its way.
- The brain uses the same pathways to feel physical and emotional pain. One study showed that the same pain centers lit up when a person had a hot probe placed on their forearm as they did when looking at a picture of someone who rejected them.
- When you look at images of your ex lover, regions of the brain associated with nicotine addiction, physical pain, distress, and attachment are aroused. According to Dr. Helen Fisher, "You just crave this person. You're willing to do crazy things, stupid things." Just as a person would while fighting a drug addiction, she said, a lovelorn person obsesses, craves and distorts reality.
- The lust system (libido or sex drive), is distinguished by craving for sexual gratification and is largely associated with the hormones estrogen and testosterone in both men and women.
- The attraction system promotes focused attention, intrusive or obsessive thoughts about the object of desire, feelings of exhilaration, and so on, and is associated primarily with adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin.
- The attachment or pair-bonding system inspires feelings of calm and security, fosters a range of relationship-protective behaviors, and is associated mainly with the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin.
- If you have a fight or put up a fight, you will feel stress— and release cortisol.
- “Broken heart syndrome"? is a real condition also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy that causes a temporary enlargement of the heart that in extreme cases can be fatal. It’s far more common in women than in men.
Treat your heartache like an addiction, and get over it with the same principles. This means no physical contact with your ex, no talking, no looking at pictures, no special songs, books, movies, television shows, walking routes, favorite parks, date restaurants, perfumes, hairstyles, or articles of clothing that brought you together. Fisher claims that her study proves that as more time passes, activity in the parts of the brain associated with attachment and addiction decrease.
To help you celebrate your new life, welcome the new you!