NOV 21, 2016 5:54 PM PST

The Science of Heartbreak


Falling in love can cause your body to feel like it's on a permanent high. But what about when that high comes crashing down with two simple words: "We're over." Does heartbreak actually physically affect your body and brain?

Whenever you endure physical pain such as a cut or injury, the anterior cingulate cortex is stimulated. Surprise, surprise, it's this same part of the brain that is stimulated from emotional pain, such as feeling ostracized or losing an important relationship. It has been studied in both primates and humans that loss or separation from a loved one causes an increase in cortisol and a decrease in norepinephrine, which lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Evolutionarily speaking, physical pain is supposed to warn us of the risk of imminent danger, such as the pain you feel when you burn your hand picking up a hot coffee mug. But how did these pain symptoms come to evolve in us from emotional distress? Well, looking from the survival point of view, relationships and social bonds are an important aspect of life, because having those connections often allows you to succeed more (two cave people hunting together are better than one) and betters your chance of reproduction.

Nevertheless, if you're brokenhearted the last thing you're probably thinking about is it's evolutionary significance. Fear not! It is scientifically proven that surrounding yourself with social support can help alleviate your symptoms. So reach out to friends, family, and pets to act as a heart band-aid while you heal.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
Will Traps Solve the Invasive Lionfish Problem?
AUG 28, 2020
Will Traps Solve the Invasive Lionfish Problem?
Extravagant and spiny lionfish were once highly sought after by home aquarium hobbyists. These venomous fish are native ...
SEP 25, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
SEP 25, 2020
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
Physicists believe that our observable universe exists in a mirrored configuration: any fundamental particle such as pro ...
OCT 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
OCT 01, 2020
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
  Researchers from Roma Tre University in Italy have confirmed the existence of four large lakes under the ice at M ...
OCT 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Why the Sun's Atmosphere is Hotter than its Surface
OCT 09, 2020
Why the Sun's Atmosphere is Hotter than its Surface
Researchers have found evidence of nanojets (bright, thin lights) in the solar atmosphere, also known as the corona. The ...
OCT 09, 2020
Plants & Animals
Humpback Whales Thriving in NYC Waters
OCT 09, 2020
Humpback Whales Thriving in NYC Waters
Over the past decade, humpback whales have become increasingly common in waters known as the New York-New Jersey Bight. ...
NOV 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
NOV 18, 2020
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
From pandemic precautions to televised talent shows, masks are having a moment. Even this bizarre bat species has a buil ...
Loading Comments...