11/06/2014 11:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Horrible Things Heartbreak Is A Whole Lot Like

You don't have to be a scientist to conclude that breaking up sucks. But it may comfort you to know that your urge to go into post-breakup hibernation while listening to Lana Del Rey on repeat is actually a scientifically reasonable reaction to having your heart broken.

In fact, according to the science, heartbreak is a whole lot like:

1. A minor burn.


The same part of your brain lights up when you think about a lover who rejected you as when you suffer a minor burn wound, according to a 2013 study from the University of Michigan. The scientists behind the study explain that the emotional pain of rejection can have a direct physical effect on the body. Basically, your post-breakup aches and pains are so not all in your head.

2. Drug withdrawal.


"Intense romantic love seems to function much like an addiction," according to Arthur Aron, Ph.D., a professor at Stony Brook University. Aron found that broken-hearted people have similar brain activity to drug addicts going through chemical withdrawal, which he says can help explain "why feelings and behaviors related to romantic rejection are difficult to control." Still, scientists caution that those addictive feelings are never an excuse for bad post-breakup behavior.

3. An identity crisis.

man blank name tag

Breakups can seriously affect your sense of self, making your identity feel less "clear" and even smaller, according to three studies from Northwestern University. The authors write, "Not only may couples come to complete each others' sentences, they may actually come to complete each others' selves." When you're no longer part of a couple, your own personal identity may start to feel blurry.

4. A contagious illness.


According to a study led by Rose McDermott of Brown University, divorces can have a "ripple effect," and you are 75 percent more likely to get a divorce if you have a friend who is divorced. The researchers conclude that your friends' unhealthy relationships and heartbreaks can undermine the security of your own relationship. So depending on your social circle, your breakup may feel like something you "caught" from someone else, simply because you and your partner picked up friends' bad relationship vibes.

5. Intense hatred.

angry cat

You're not crazy: There's an actual biological explanation for your burning desire to key your ex's car. As famous anthropologist Helen Fisher writes in the book "Cut Loose," hatred, rage and love are closely connected in the brain. When your love circuits get interrupted, your rage circuit gets triggered, and "the brain can easily turn romantic love to fury." Because the two feelings arouse the brain and body in very similar ways, Fisher says, you can actually feel both love and hatred simultaneously.

Make no mistake, heartbreak can make you feel kind of crazy -- and a lot of it is programmed right into your DNA -- but it doesn't have to rule you. Check out our divorce care package series and start learning how to heal.

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All images are Getty unless otherwise indicated.



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