Romantic rejection really hurts

We’ve all been there on one side or the other: either we have dumped a romantic partner or have been dumped. Being the dumper may not carry too much pain but the anguish of being the dumpee can be soul searing.

Now research on the brain has shown exactly how extensive the pain of being dumped is but that there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel.

To study romantic rejection researchers recorded brain activity during an experiment involving men and women who had recently been rejected by their romantic partners but were still yearning for that partner. The average length of time since having been dumped was 63 days but the feelings of the dumpees were still high.

For the study the subjects had brain activity measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They first viewed a picture of their “ex” and then did a short maths problem to clear their minds before looking at a picture of a “neutral” person.

The results showed that viewing the picture of their old partner significantly changed patterns of brain activity. There was increased activity in the parts of the brain that control anticipation of reward, addiction (the same areas involved in cocaine addiction), and in sensing physical pain. So being rejected has real physical implications and is not unlike withdrawal from an addiction.

On the bright side the research showed that the longer the time since the dumping has occurred, the less activity there is in a part of the brain known as the right ventral putamen. This is the area of the brain involved in attachment and the reduction in activity shows that attachment to the loved one is reducing. As more time elapsed since the rejection there was also more activity in the part of the brain involved in assessing gains and losses.

So as time passes attachment reduces and reason takes hold. At this stage when you meet your “ex” you can safely say, ”Look, my right ventral putamen is totally over you.” They might not know what you are talking about but your smug feeling of intellectual superiority will make the separation even easier.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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