Why You Crave Your Ex and its Linkage to Addiction, According to Science

It is a Friday night and you are home alone with a bottle of beer. You miss your ex so badly that your chest aches. You try to deny the thought of him/her but to no avail, and you catch yourself on Facebook, scrolling through your ex’s new pictures and status. You are totally aware that it would sound insane to contact him/her after all this time, but in a moment of human frailty you grab your phone and text him/her “I miss you”… SEND. You are exactly at a point of no return.

An hour passes and you still get no reply. You feel embarrassed, foolish and regret for sending that message. You start to create pity parties in your head asking yourself why you keep on reaching out when it only makes you suffer. Regardless how hard you try to hold it, you are simply impulsive, vulnerable and irrational like a junk addict craving for a fix.

Love is Like a Drug

This sounds ridiculously dramatic but not far from reality. A scientific study reveals that there is a psychological and physiological basis why a person aches for his/her past lover. Researchers have correlated rejection made by a romantic lover to a brain movement accompanied with addiction cravings. With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), adult participants who were rejected by their former lovers but are still romantically in love with them, activated the key areas of their brain after viewing their ex’s photographs.

Specifically, researchers observed activation of orbitofrontal cortex that is accompanied by cravings/hunger, insular cortex associated with distress and ventral tegmental area which is reportedly responsible for romantic feelings. According to Dr. Lucy Brown, clinical professor in Albert Einstein College of Medicine, their findings suggest that romantic kind of feeling, regardless of circumstances, may be considered a natural addiction. Romantic kind of pain may be a necessary part of our life as nature has wired it into our physiology and anatomy. Emotional recovery, on the other hand, is in our anatomy too.

Are We Trapped by Biology?

Wanting your ex back may have scientific explanations but it does not disqualify the fact that it’s also a psychological matter, a behavior of ours that we have complete control of. Even if science tells us that your desire to reunite with a former lover after rejection is a natural thing, it is still your discretion to tolerate this addiction or not. In an article about creating successful relationships, written by a contributor of Go Magazine SG, teenagers were advised not to take rejection on a personal level.

“When we approach a potential partner, we have to say to ourselves over and over again, ‘No matter how this person reacts to me, I know I am a worthwhile person.’” (Jeffers 1992:93) If you have a good picture of your self-worth, it is still possible to live a satisfying life even after the love is gone. Just like heroin addiction, holding on to the past will leave you exactly right where you are—behind.

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