The scientific reason why you just can’t quit your addiction to your ex
At least there’s an answer I guess?
After breaking up with someone, you can go a bit mad. Despite unfollowing him from all your social media apps, you know all of his handles off by heart, and you slowly start to sink into the inevitable slump of stalking him every 20 minutes in the hope that just maybe he’s updated his status.
But why? Why do you have to go through this crazy phase in order to realise you’re better off without them? Well, according to scientist Helen Fisher, it is actually possible to be addicted to your ex.
In her new book, Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, Fisher explores how and why we love the way we do, and details the results of an experiment she conducted to find out what really happens in the brain of someone who has been rejected by the person they love.
She scanned the brains of ten women and five men who had just been through exactly that, and made the complete a questionnaire in order to measure the “intensity of their romantic feeling”: all of them scored high on “passionate love”, and said they spent more than 85 per cent of their time thinking about their ex. Nothing out of the ordinary there really, everyone’s been there, done that.
The scan, however, showed activations in areas of the brain that are associated with feelings of intense romantic love, deep attachment, physical pain, anxiety, distress and, most importantly, the part of the brain links with craving and addiction. As in, the part of the brain that’s previously been linked with the cravings of drug abusers.
According to Fisher, when lovers encounter barriers to their romantic feelings, their passion intensifies – a phenomenon apparently rooted in the brain. When a reward, i.e. the love of your ex, is delayed, the dopamine response, which is associated with reward and pleasure, in the brain is increased, causing the addiction.
Apparently rejected lovers can also suffer from something know as “abandonment rage”, which stresses the heart, raises blood pressure, and suppresses the immune system. So that’s something to look forward to I guess.