Why Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: The Science of Heartbreak [VIDEO]

Have you ever had your heart “broken?” What makes a broken heart so painful: is it that the broken heart really, physically hurts us, or is a broken heart just an abstract emotional concept in our minds?

Throughout the ages, humanity has been obsessed with movies, books, plays, and a artwork about love and breaking up, a cycle we experience many times throughout their lives. If breakups are such a common focus of art, they must have a grand, physical effect on us. It turns out they do: just think of how you feel when you are physically injured with a cut or wound, for example. In this case, the anterior cingulate cortex region of your brain is stimulated. It just so happens that this is the same area of your brain activated when you lose a social relationship or when you feel excluded. In other words, physical injuries and breakups stimulate the same part of your brain!

Maybe physical pain and emotional pain aren’t as different as we once thought?” asks AsapScience.
Physical Pain vs. Emotional Pain

To see the relationship between emotional and real injury, all you have to do is think of the ways we typically describe breaking up and losing loved ones. Haven’t you ever had your “heart ripped out” or been left feeling “emotionally scarred?”

emtional scars

Studies have shown that people would rather be physically wounded over being excluded by their friends and loved ones. The same way we learn that touching a hot pot of coffee will quickly burn our finger, we easily learn that losing friendships burns, too. The human race thrives on social relationships to survive, and losing relationships can be as painful as anything physical.

Science backs this claim. Plain and simple, you are more likely to sustain yourself and reproduce if you are not alone. You can see this fact in primates, who exhibit much happier behavior when not isolated but experience bouts of depression and anxiety when alone.

surviving through relationships

When we lose loved ones, we experience emotional responses similar to those brought on by isolation. This is a fact we cannot overlook on a day like today, on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. But what can we do to mend emotional wounds when physical treatments like Band-Aids and creams are useless on our brains?


Start by surrounding yourself with your friends and family. When we become depressed, we naturally begin to isolate ourselves as the depression worsens, making it difficult for even the ones closest to us to reach out. Give your friends and family a chance to be there for you when it counts! Also, try not to hold grudges against forming new relationships just because of what’s happened to you in the past. As we get older, it can be increasingly difficult to build trust with new people and allow more meaningful relationships to progress. The person you just met could be one of the most awesome people ever, so just give him/her a chance! Make decisions based on your gut, not the past, and stay positive.

Whether it was love at first sight or love many years in the making, studies have shown that increasing levels of social support can help people better deal with heartbreak. And if you know someone whom you think may be depressed or just in need of a hug, you should be there for that person, too, because in the end, “scientifically, us humans just want to fit in somewhere.

we just want to fit in
Do you feel the need to be socially connected?

Amanda Kay Oneal
Great reminder all this technology is spacing us, awesome!
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