Heartbreak and Pain

Heartbreak and Pain

Your brain is drowned in dopamine and oxytocin the “happy chemicals” or neurotransmitters of the brain. When the relationship comes to an end, the happy chemicals leave your system and are replaced by cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrine the stress chemicals. The stress of the break up takes the body into fight or flight mode.


No wonder you feel so down after a breakup.

Too much cortisol can lead to too much blood being deposited to your muscles. This causes muscular tenseness preparing your body for action. Unfortunately no action is actually required. This can cause tenderness and sensitivity in your muscles due to prolonged contraction, headaches, stomach cramps and chest pains.


Your brain believes that you’re physically hurt, as the same area of the brain is activated when you are physically injured and when you suffer from social rejection, in this case heartbreak. This is because emotional and physical pain share the same neural pathways in the brain.

In an experiment, participants were told to look at photos of their friends, along with positive thoughts and then they were told to look at photos of their ex causing them to relive their breakup. During a brain scan the same participants felt a pain on their forearms, equal to holding a hot cup of coffee. The same areas became active in physical and emotional turmoil.


Love can be just as addictive as drugs, so it is not surprising that just as a drug addict gets withdrawals, after a breakup it’s natural to be experiencing withdrawals from your previous significant other.


It is not usual for someone who is in love to want to spend every waking minute with his or her significant other. Everyone else just disappears into the background, friends get neglected, family get ignored, but it doesn’t make a difference as you have made this one person your world. This is why when the relationship ends an identity crisis is inevitable. Being in that relationship changed your perspectives of yourself, and now that it’s over, your sense of self is diminished. Also by making this person your world you have isolated yourself from your much needed support network.


This isolation, along with the lack of your sense of self, can cause low self-esteem and negative thoughts protrude our brain. We now no longer know who we are or understand our purpose in life. Self esteem hits an all time low and this can lead to depression, which is an internalisation of feelings such as anger, fear, sadness and shame.


In this time of isolation it is not uncommon to go over memories or fantasies, tormenting you on what would’ve been. This is the time that it is essential to reach out to your support network; your friends, family and your therapist.


If you need help with your depression, or even if you would like to explore your unexpressed or internalised anger then join us with our one to one counselling and anger management services.

Written by Hannah Johnson

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