Why Does Love Hurt So Much? This Is What Science Tells Us

When we’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, we experience something very intense, at an emotional level, but also a physical one. But what exactly happens in our brains in a post-breakup phase? Why does it hurt so much and what can we do about it?

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Addicted To Love

Studies in neuroscience show that love is strictly related to our reward system and that when we interact with our loved one we are flooded with dopamine. What happens when we no longer have access to them is exactly what goes through the brain of a cocaine addict. We go through withdrawal. In that sense, science confirms that love is very much a drug, and a most powerful one. At least, this is how our brains interpret it.

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Researchers conducted a study which analyzed the brains of people dealing with a harsh breakup. What they found from their fMRI scans was that they still appeared in love. However, the reward was being delayed in these cases. Also, technically, they were still addicts, craving for another “fix” (which is to say, their former lover).


Being in a long-term relationship with someone means we have thousands of neural circuits devoted to them. And when we lose our beloved, we are forced to reconstruct these circuits taking into account the person’s absence. And this translates into excruciating pain.

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Moreover, when we’re rejected, we also feel physical pain, whether it’s – quite literally – a heartache, chest or stomach pain. The explanation is that our brains interpret social rejection or other troubling emotions as physical pain. So when we feel hurt after a breakup, it’s actually like being stabbed. So no longer just a metaphor.

Although scientists have not found a magical pill that will help us recover from a breakup, they do offer a solution and it’s plain and simple. All we need is more love. Also, contrary to popular belief, moving on fast and bottling up our emotions is not the best option.

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It matters if we sit with our feelings, review what went wrong, and reflect upon it as much as we can. Then we should express our grief in healthy ways. This is the path to overcoming heartache and keeping our hearts open and in one piece. Please share this!