The Courage to Love Again-The Psychology of Heartbreak

The risk of loving someone is the fact that heartbreak may come one day. It is associated with singlehood, neurotic tendencies, and an anxious/avoidant attachment. After the heartbreak one starts the fear being hurt again or/and you start to believe that there is something about you that makes it impossible for someone to love you properly.

Romantic love activates in the caudate nucleus through dopamine.  Psychologist refer to this part of the brain as the “reward system”, emphasizing the idea that love does trigger emotion but essentially it is more of a motivational state, the motivation to obtain and retain the objects affection. This part of the brain lights up when someone is in love and when someone is a cocaine addict, meaning you are essentially an addict. Getting over your lost love will be tedious but well worth it. Researchers have found that if a person was no longer in love but still in pain from a break up their brain would still be in motivation mode, and expecting a reward. Hence why heartbreak can bring visceral pain, your body is not getting what it wants. The grieving person has numerous neural circuits devoted to the lost person, and each of these has to be brought up and reconstructed to take into account the person’s absence.

Specifically, the pain may be caused by the simultaneous hormonal triggering of the sympathetic activation system (fight-or-flight system that increases the activity of the heart and lungs) and the parasympathetic activation system (rest-and-digest response, social engagement system). It’s like heart’s accelerator and brakes are pushed simultaneously, creating the feeling of heartbreak.

What can help?

  • Give yourself time to grieve and reflect
  • Forgive the other person and yourself
  • Work on rebuilding good feelings about yourself and a life on your own
  • Avoid assumptions that keep you mired in the wreckage of your past relationship
  • Be aware of old relationship patterns
  • Be open to someone who is different
  • Give love time to grow

If you or someone you know is seeking therapy due to heartbreak, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit

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