Breaking Up is Hard to Do… Literally!


It looks like that old saying “love hurts” may actually have some scientific legs to stand on. Ladies, you may want to hold on to your men as long as you can, because apparently the heartache that comes with breaking up can be detrimental to your health, causing actual physical pain. According to a new study published yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the experience of social rejection akin to a romantic breakup activates the same parts of the brain that are also triggered during physical pain. Bonnie Levin, a professor at the University of Miami adds, “Just as some of us are better able to tolerate pain, some of us are more vulnerable to experiencing rejection.”

If you’ve ever dealt with your own breakup or had to drag a friend out of bed who’s suffering from a breakup, then you know how debilitating it can be to lose a significant other. It’s easy to say, “it’s time to get over it,” but now we know that that’s like asking someone to get over a physical injury before it has healed. So, what does this mean for you? Maybe you’ll be shown a little more sympathy post breakup, or if you’re the heartbreaking type maybe you’ll be a little more sympathetic the next time you think about ditching your beau.

No matter how you react to physical or emotional pain which apparently are one in the same it’s important that you address the feelings, no matter how hard it may be. It’s easy to convince yourself you’re over someone or that that sprained ankle doesn’t really hurt as much as you’re letting on, but “people make a lot of conclusions that physical pain is too much to manage. They believe the best way to deal with it is to lie down and shut out the world,” said Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center. We’ve all been there, but “shutting down” could just lead to more pain in the future. Instead, listen to Edward Smith, a cognitive neuroscientist at Columbia University, who advises, “when thinking about rejection, view experiences with an ex-partner as an outside person from a distance.”

So, face your pain and emotions when they happen, and try your best to step outside of the situation. You don’t want to become one of those people who are still unwittingly holding a torch for some asshole ex five or ten years down the road, do you?

Photo: Aneta Bartos, Zoo (Issue #23)

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