Recovering from a break-up is similar to kicking a drug addiction, according to brain scans

Post First Published: 2/09/2022 8:46 PM

A relationship breakup leaves many people feeling sick, distressed and depressed. And science has proved that pain is justified – but there is a way to move on from these feelings.


This Article Excerpt Is From: Why is a Breakup Like a Drug Withdrawal? By OpenHouse

If you use an MRI scanner to look at the brains of those going through unwanted breakups, when seeing a photo of their former partner that they want to be in touch with the same parts of the brain light up as they would if you were showing a drug addict a picture of their drug of choice, whilst they were going through the process of going cold turkey in the first few weeks.


At least understanding that you are literally going through something not dissimilar from a heroin addict coming off heroin can help you understand why you feel so desperate to talk to them, and also to understand why you need to be more gentle with yourself than before. 


I also thought it was really interesting to understand that the brain scanner shows that when your brain is activated in this way, we’re driven as humans to find this object or substance that we’re craving. This really helped me understand why, from a biological perspective, I was desperate to contact my ex, even though he clearly had no interest in contacting me. 


The closest thing I got to a solution here was every time I wanted to message him, I would write the message down in the notes part of my phone. If I still wanted to send the message in 24 hours, then I would allow myself to. The interesting thing is that 99% of the time when it got to 24 hours later, I actually couldn’t think of anything worse than sending him the message I wrote down. It was always highly emotional, so dramatic and was literally telling him how much I loved and missed him, and I couldn’t believe that he had done this to me. 


Over time, instead of just putting down sporadic messages that I wanted to send him, I also started to write down longer form thoughts and feelings about him and our breakup. It was as if I was writing a letter to him. I ended up writing it and rewriting it to the point that it became such a cathartic exercise, but it also got me out of the addiction cycle of wanting to open up a conversation with him. 


I’m not sure if this will work for everyone, but for me it definitely felt like a way that I could almost engage with him without actually engaging with him. 


I also know that one day, if we ever speak again, I will put all of my thoughts down on paper and we will be able to have a rational, emotionally mature and balanced conversation because I have processed everything already.

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Why is a Breakup Like a Drug Withdrawal?

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