Here’s how we get over a bad breakup, according to science

Calling all gigglers who recently got out of a relationship: turn down the Adele for a hot minute because there’s some good news coming your way from good ‘ol science.

That’s right: all hail the neuron, because turns out, it’s wired to help us get over heartbreak.

New research from Saint Louis University proves that we’re actually much better at healing and moving on than we give ourselves credit for. And it all goes back to the noggin. Our brains are apparently hardwired to deal with the whole process of leaving a relationship (or being left), and entering into a new one.

Researcher Dr. Brian Boutwell, an associate professor of epidemiology at SLU, analyzed studies about breakups and love with a focus on evolutionary psychology. According to Dr. Boutwell,

“Our review of the literature suggests we have a mechanism in our brains designed by natural selection to pull us through a very tumultuous time in our lives…it suggests people will recover; the pain will go away with time.”

That sound you just heard was an army of heartbroken of people in sweats cheering and deciding not to text their exes.

The team at Saint Louis University also conducted a brain imaging study to study the neurological responses to issues of the heart. Using an MRI they could see that men and women who claim to be madly in love experienced increased activity in the pleasure zones of the brains—the same zones that light up when they’re affected by a drug like cocaine.


Well, pretty much.

According to the study, this response is one of the reasons breakups can feel so devastating: “This circuitry in the brain, which is deeply associated with addictive behaviors . . . is implicated in the feelings associated with romantic attraction and may help explain the attachment that often follows the initial feelings of physical infatuation with a potential mate.”

But something that struck me (although it’s certainly not a new theory), is our apparent ‘disinclination’ towards monogamy. Boutwell suggests that the very fact that our brains are able to handle heartbreak so resiliently means that being a ‘one-woman man’ isn’t a part of how we’ve naturally evolved.

But don’t fret, apparently the better we understand how our brains handle romantic rejection, we could also discover ways to save relationships that are failing.

Thanks, brain!

(Image via Shutterstock)

Filed Under