Quitting smoking, cutting out gambling and… stop texting an ex? Turns out they might all be more closely related that you ever thought, as a new study have revealed that moving on from a failed relationship is not much different to saying goodbye to your must-have coffee kick in the morning.
The study conducted by eHarmony demonstrated that all those reactions to heartbreak – both physical and mental - are a result of what is identified as ‘Broken Heart Syndrome.’
And believe it or not, the experience of Broken Heart syndrome has been shown to be similar to getting over a chemical addiction.
Talk about romantic chemistry, ey?
Like when we give up anything that gives us little kicks in life, a broken heart results in a sharp decrease of Dopamine (a neurotransmitter responsible for sending signals between the brain and nervous system often in response to pleasurable experiences) leaves you with ‘withdrawal’ symptoms, hence why we feel so lonely and sometimes depressed and insomniatic after we split from our significant others.
Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who worked with the dating site to pull together the study, explained:
“When you’re in love, the hormone Dopamine floods your brain along the same pathway that nicotine does, which makes you ‘feel good’. But as it drops away, you want more. During heartbreak, your Dopamine levels fall below average, which can lead to an increase in anxiety and stress, causing you to experience a sense of unease, low mood and even sleep disturbance.
“There is a well-documented link with chemical withdrawal symptoms and the loss of appetite, headaches, insomnia and depression. Part of this has to do with psychological dependence – we are missing what we are used to. A withdrawal craving for that partner that really hurt you, is similar to the psychological dependence and craving for that cigarette that gave you comfort when you held it – and despite knowing its not the best thing for you, you still crave it.
“Another reason that we may feel physically low following a break up is that stress can actually depress your immune system and give rise to inflammation. Add those changes to your diet and social life into the mixture and you have a recipe for headaches, loss of appetites and even heart palpitations, making the term ‘broken heart’ seem particularly apt!”
See, there is a science behind your abrupt tears, dedication to your bed and one-tub-a-day of Ben & Jerry’s. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The top ten symptoms of ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ and the causes
An overall low mood and alone (35%) – A drop in Dopamine and an increase in Adrenaline, known as ‘Habituation’ (finding new routines and missing old ones)
Depression (32%) – The body adjusts to a drop in Dopamine, which acted as a ‘reward’ for seeing the person you love
Reduced motivation (28%) – A low mood and low self-worth which makes everything feel like more of an effort
Feelings of anxiety and stress (26%) – A drop in Dopamine, an increase in Adrenaline
A loss of appetite (16%) – High levels of Cortisol in the blood lead to elevate blood sugar, while anxiety leads to Adrenaline slowing down body processes like digestion
Insomnia (16%) – Ruminating thoughts (worry that you’ve made the wrong decision), Adrenaline levels
Eating more unhealthily (14%) – Stress eating (also linked to ‘sexualisation’ and ‘fetishisation’ of food which makes it feel like a treat instead of fuel)
Reduced interest in exercise (15%) – Lethargy and a low mood – feels like there’s less point in taking care of yourself
Headaches (12%) – Emotional stress (increased muscle and body tension)
Skin problems (11%) – Stress hormones such as Cortisol and Adrenalin, though lack of sleep and poor diet (other symptoms) can contribute
Gahh, we just remembered how horrible heartbreak is!
And with a whopping eight million Brits saying they had their hearts broken last year (sob!) - and 74 per cent of those experiencing a negative symptom like the ones listed above as a result – it makes for pretty depressing news.
BUT, thankfully, like any other pleasure inducing addiction, we just need to learn how to kick the habit!
Anyone who’s been through a heartbreak before knows that these feeling don’t last forever, so be inspired that you do have the power to ‘quit’ your ex.
When getting over heartbreak, we all turn to different activities to try have replace that pleasure inducer. And the research found that men and women typically seek out the following in response to a nasty break up:
What are the best cures for heartbreak?
Heading to the pub (28%)
Getting back into the dating game (23%)
Spending time with friends and family (52 %)
Turning to comfort food (39%)
Getting stuck in at work (33%)
What BOTH sexes tended to do to feel better, was head back into the arms of there most recent ex (36%) which they also later regretted. Eek.
So we’re going to say, let us ladies take a leaf out of the men’s book – and get back out there to mend our broken heart!
And here’s some top tips to help you get back there, and quit that habit once and for all: