Why Feeling Bad After A Breakup Is Actually A Good Thing, According To Science

Your brain knows even more than you think.

Kesha was right: love is a drug — and a pretty powerful one at that.


In 2010, neuroscientist Dr. Lucy Brown and anthropologist Helen Fisher proved this saying was more than just a catchy song lyric. Using an MRI machine, they studied the brains of 15 recently brokenhearted women and men when showed photos of a friend and their ex.

Brown found that the ex's photo activated the same brain regions (the ventral tegmental area) as when someone goes through cocaine withdrawal. The ventral tegmental area, also known as the "reward circuit,"  controls non-verbal, basic, unconscious needs and regulates pleasure and pain. 

So, despite consciously knowing a relationship has ended, this area unconsciously still keeps that love alive. Brown concluded in a video for Bustle, "This is like a drug addiction." 

And it's really hard — if not impossible — to quit cold turkey.

Even if you immediately cut off all communication with your ex, you still might spend tons of time thinking about them and trying to figure out the causes of your breakup. Thank the nucleus accumbens for those nights spent lying awake overanalyzing "what went wrong" those last few months. As Brown told Bustle, "There's an overactivity in this part of the brain that's thinking about what happened and what could happen in the future." 

Brown and Fisher also found that the part of the brain that registers physical pain, the insular cortex, became activated when the participants looked at pictures of their exes. So, in a way, you can truly feel emotional pain. Oof. 

So you shouldn't feel bad for feeling bad about a breakup. It's a normal biological response that proves something even more important: you're human. 

To learn even more cool science stuff, watch the full video below:


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