Romantic Breakup & Addiction Linked

Researchers believe that may have scientifically found out why breaking up is so hard to do. They compared the love that one feels for someone else to a drug addiction, and compared the symptoms of a break up to going through a cocaine withdrawal or craving. They pinpointed that romantic love is a goal oriented state that is based on the success of the relationship.

The team was led by Arthur Aron, Ph.D., professor of social and health psychology and former graduate students Greg Strong and Debra Mashek from the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies at Rutgers University.

He used a number of brain imaging techniques to monitor the brain activity of 15 college-aged individuals. Heterosexual men and women who had recent been dumped by someone they were in a relationship with and said that they were still in love with that person, often spent hours thinking about them and hoped that they could get back together with them.

The study showed participants a photograph of their former partner and asked them to work on a math exercise. They then showed the volunteers a picture of someone that was neutral to them. The photos of the past partners stimulated certain areas of the brain that are key including the ventral segmental area of the brain, which control motivation and reward and plays a role in romantic love.

They also observed changes in areas of the brain that are linked to cravings and addictions, and likened breaking up to cocaine addiction. They also saw changes in the insular cortex which is an area that is associated with physical pain and suffering.

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