Thursday, March 16, 2023

The science of breakups: Why it is so hard to get over your ex

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Adetunji Matthew
Adetunji Matthew
I’m Adetunji Matthew, an Economist, Social Media Manager, software Developer/Marketer Sales Consultant, and Ecompreneur. I’m popularly known as “Matt” As an artist and designer, I aim to create something brilliant daily. Eager to learn more, I use my free time to get better at w hat interests me, whether it's researching, teaching, or even something entirely new.
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Why are breakups so painful and difficult to get over?

‘Just move on’ is never good advice for a person with a broken heart.

This is because there is a neurological aspect to a breakup. Your brain goes through some changes after a relationship has ended.

Amen describes it perfectly, “when we love someone, they come to live in the emotional or limbic centre of our brains. They occupy nerve cell pathways and physically live in the neurons and synapses of the brain.”

“When we lose a lover through a breakup or divorce, our brain gets confused and disoriented. Since the person lives in the neuronal connections, we expect to see them, hear them, feel them, and touch them”.

Here is why getting over a ex is never easy

Your brain reacts to a breakup in the following ways;

Withdrawal symptoms

You wonder how your ex is doing, and you want to reach out to them.

Spending time with your former lover caused your brain to emit neurotransmitters called dopamine and oxytocin – a feeling similar to what drug addicts get from drugs.

A breakup means separation from the person who gave you those amazing emotions and that can make you act like an addict who hasn’t had their fix in a while.

When you are not receiving endorphins and dopamine, you would want to isolate yourself, refuse to eat and feel like there is no joy in your life anymore. You feel that only your ex can give you relief and happiness.

Also Read: Body count: Stop asking your girl for it, you don’t need to know

Formation of new neural pathways

Neural pathways are brain activities caused by repeated actions. When you are with someone, they create their neural pathways.

After a breakup, you have to rewire your brain because your brain will ask you to seek the old pathways to pleasure like calling, texting and having sex with your ex.

The process of fighting these feelings can be a painful struggle. It takes a whole lot for you to stick to not talking or being with them anymore.

Also Read: Why do single women find married men attractive for relationships?

Actual physical pain

During a breakup, your brain feels actual physical pain. How do we feel pain in the first place?

According to, “When we feel pain, such as when we touch a hot stove, sensory receptors in our skin send a message via nerve fibres to the spinal cord and brainstem and then onto the brain where the sensation of pain is registered, the information is processed and the pain is perceived.” This is exactly how a break-up feels.

Through scans, it was discovered that the pain you feel when you have a broken bone or toothache is the same pain you feel during a breakup.

That is why you can cry for hours – it really hurts.

Also Read: 7 ways spouses can build stronger relationships

Rational thinking is suspended

When you are experiencing a breakup, you can’t think rationally. Even though the person has hurt you, you might still want them.

This is because the part of your brain in charge of rational thinking is suspended and you are thinking emotionally and seeking emotional comfort.

How do you trick your brain into moving on?

Since your brain keeps tricking you to go back to your ex, you have to trick it back if you want to heal and move on.

Especially in situations where they don’t want to be with you anymore and they’ve told you or you have been cheated on or abused – you have to move on.

Also Read: 4 reasons why couples should sleep naked

Block or mute them

You have to eliminate them from your social media feed and that includes stalking them. Stop trying to find out what they are up to or who they are with. Soon out of sight will be out of mind.

Get busy

Immerse yourself in your work or a new skill. Being idle is one of the best ways to relapse. If you live alone, move in with a friend temporarily.

Also Read: For women: Here’s how to make a rich, classy man fall in love with you

Seek comfort from friends and family

Let other people be there to show you love and hold you accountable in case you want to fall back into old patterns.

Be honest with yourself

Honesty is the best thing you can give yourself, by finally accepting that the relationship is over and done with no hope of resuscitation you can begin the steps to healing.

There is something called neuroplasticity – this means your brain can learn new patterns. If you give yourself enough time to heal and develop new neural pathways, you will be fine.


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