Why does love hurt so much?

Love hurts.

Most of us have been there before. Picture the scene. You’re in a relationship with the person you’ve always dreamed of meeting. You’re convinced this is the one. You’re experiencing an impressive array of unforgettable moments. You’re getting ready to either ask or to receive the question. Perhaps you’ve already celebrated your big day. And then, suddenly, it’s over. The one you love doesn’t love you anymore.

You’re desperate for answers but you don’t receive any.

You feel as though your whole world has come crashing down around you. Perhaps depression has set in. “Where do I go from here?” you ask yourself in despair. It’s a sad story that so many people have experienced before you and many have yet to go through.

Going through a breakup is never an easy thing to bear. You may feel as though you have been personally rejected and end up asking all sorts of questions of yourself. You may feel sorely let down as you have invested much time and effort in making your relationship work. Everyone likes to be certain about things and not knowing what led to your breakup can result in can be especially painful.

Getting over a breakup can be an extremely challenging task and it presents great difficulties. Have you ever wondered what exactly causes these feelings of such immense pain from a biological and scientific point of view? If your breakup is a sudden one, your body may enter what is known as fight or flight mode. This is where the body releases hormones and one of two possible scenarios will unfold; either your body tells you to stand your ground and fight or it tells you to run away. It may also result in bouts of the shakes or an increased heartbeat. Other effects may include muscle tightening, loss of appetite and sleep troubles. Over time, you may also develop soreness in the muscles, headaches and stomach aches.

However hard it may seem it is important that your diet remains consistent and you get plenty of sleep. If you need to, consult your doctor and explain the situation to them. If you have been through (or are going through) a breakup, the pain you experience may be so intense that it can feel like physical pain.

This is not accidental. Studies have shown that the body reacts to a breakup in exactly the same way it reacts to physical pain. Research points to the same regions of the brain being activated when you either experience a breakup or undergo a physical injury.

Further research has also indicated that the trauma of a breakup results in the body producing the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin which are closely linked with happy and pleasant emotions. The production of these chemicals is halted so abruptly that the body behaves almost as if it were going through a period of withdrawal.

The brain experiences a state of severe wanting that can have a negative impact on daily activities. It is almost as if the person is craving to be with their ex again. In situations like this, it is vitally important that the person takes steps to safeguard their mental health, including seeking professional help if needs be. Human beings are social creatures by nature. We instinctively want to preserve bonds and relationships that we build.

If we lose any of these bonds the natural reaction is to develop strongly negative feelings. According to clinical social worker Meg Josephson, one reason for breakups being so painful lies in the way we have evolved. She points to rejection and ostracization from tribes and other social groups in eras gone by inevitably resulting in a lack of shelter and food and raising serious question marks about survival. Even though, in modern times, the loss of a partner or spouse no longer carries an automatic risk of death, our brains nevertheless remain programmed to overwhelm us with negative emotions and pain whenever people are separated. As humans, we like order in our lives.

When something doesn’t go according to plan, we naturally want to figure out why, not least so we can avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. However, when it comes to a breakup, the reasons behind it are not always so straightforward and anyone who suffers one is left struggling to process the hows and whys.

The pain can be exacerbated by endlessly going over the weeks and months leading to the split and trying to figure out went wrong. There is a tendency to blame oneself and this can have a knock-on effect on mental wellbeing and self-esteem.

Relationships are not something that come easy. They demand a considerable amount of commitment and time. Many of us will spend years cultivating our relationships and if it comes to an end one day it can leave us feeling sapped of all energy and the emotional resources, we poured into making our relationship a success seem to have been wasted. In this instance, recovering from a breakup will demand time spent on both financial and emotional recovery.

It is important to bear in mind that whatever good memories remain of the relationship should be held onto and not lightly tossed away. These can provide some measure of comfort. Finally, when we are in a relationship it can help to make the more routine aspects of daily life more bearable. Following a breakup, we may find that we must take on additional responsibilities to which we are not accustomed and this can lead to extra stresses being applied to us. We may find such activities as shopping and laundry more onerous without our partner to share the duties with us. Recovering from a breakup may require us to adjust our daily schedule in order to incorporate these tasks which, when we are already afflicted with heartache, may not come so easily to us. These are just some of the reasons why the breakup of a relationship can seem so overwhelming and so stingingly painful to us


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