The NeuroScience of Break Ups Cont. Click To Read Part One and Part Two of this article.


Hope and Resilience


An issue found with these fMRI studies is that they tend to use a small number of people who respond to advertisements for people who haven’t gotten over their ex. We can’t tell if these people are representative of the average person who goes through a breakup, or whether they answer the ads because they are especially distressed. This needs to be determined in future research. Despite the short-term pain of a breakup, longer term findings indicate that most young people are resilient and recover. College students report feeling significantly less distressed about the breakup after about 10 weeks. Also, other studies have shown brain activity in the craving centers decreased as more time passed since the breakup.

Is there anything we can learn from these findings to help people deal with painful breakups. The analogy to addiction and pain may give people a framework for understanding the intensity of their feelings and can be a basis for developing self-compassion and realistic expectations. You might expect waves of strong emotion or “cravings” for the ex in the initial period. Do not expect yourself to immediately be able to “just get over it and move on.” Give yourself time for your feelings in the first few weeks.

Distraction and self-care activities may also help. Conditioning theory would suggest that places, people, or activities associated with the ex-partner may be particularly likely to trigger “cravings,” so you may want to avoid these for a while and try to develop some new routines.

You could try Rick Hanson’s approach, focused on reprogramming the brain to think more positively. As with addictions, it helps to have a support group of people you can call on when you’re tempted to do something foolish

. If your feelings are too intense to manage alone or if you find yourself coping in unhealthy ways, you should speak to a friend and open up.


The End