For a lot of people, a breakup means a form of temporary insanity, where all willpower goes out of the window, and you end up sitting on your hands while friends spoon feed you Ben & Jerry’s and you desperately try not to text your ex in a bid to maintain some shred of dignity.
But is it possible that a breakup actually screws with your brain? A story by Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal — ‘Lovelorn in a Facebook Age‘ — explores post-breakup reactions, and offers some interesting conclusions about how the brain behaves after such a traumatic emotional episode.
Writes Bernstein: “The level of neurotransmitters in the brain are affected in a romantic split, producing a range of symptoms from sadness and anxiety to changes in sleep, appetite and even motor coordination. In people who are deeply grieving, the part of the brain that processes addictions is activated. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you are the dumper or the dumpee. If the breakup was painful, the physiological symptoms will be the same… ‘It’s not a heartbroken thing, it’s a brain-broken thing,’ says Marianne Legato, a cardiologist and founder of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University.”
And when your brain is broken (or numb from too much ice cream and well-intentioned platitudes), what do you do? You text, call, check his or her Facebook page or Twitter feed, obsessively monitor your email in case he/she has made an attempt to contact you. “What we’re looking for when we engage in obsessive behavior like this is the dopamine fix that comes when we hear back from the object of our obsession,” says Bernstein.
So what can you and your temporarily damaged brain do to avoid behaving in ways that you might regret? According to the men interviewed for the story, it’s best to stick with an old standby: sex with someone else.