Brain Scans Show Rejection Really Hurts. Romantic rejection, causes physical pain, according to a new study of brain activity.
Now MRI brain scans of people jilted in real life show “activation in brain areas that are actually tied to the feeling of pain,” said study co-author Edward Smith, a psychologist at Columbia University in New York City.
While in an MRI machine, the subjects were asked to look at photographs of their ex-partners and think about being rejected.
The brain studies show us that romantic rejection hurts just like physical pain, and it is like cocaine addiction. We have to treat it like an addiction and think of it like a broken bone.
It can be very hard to keep admitting to yourself and the world that you like someone – when it seems they may not like you.
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What is going on in the brain to create this madness we feel after rejection?
Many things. Among them, our rejected lovers showed activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the brain region directly linked with feelings of passionate romantic love.
We also found what we were really looking for: activity in the nucleus accumbens, a central part of the brain’s Reward System–the brain region linked with wanting, craving, energy, focus and motivation. The nucleus accumbens has been clearly associated with all of the primary addictions, including one’s craving for cocaine, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or heroin.
The Rejected Brain – The Anatomy Of Love
Parts of their brains that manage physical pain—the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula, to be exact—lighted up, according to the study.
The results are striking, Smith said, especially because the team analyzed 150 other brain-scan experiments on negative emotions—fear, anxiety, anger, sadness—and found that none of these emotionally painful experiences activate the brain’s physical sensory areas in the same way as an undesired breakup.
“There may be something special about rejection.”
–Rejection Really Hurts, Brain Scans Show – Latest Stories
Heartbreak Can Lower Your IQ
Heartbreak, loss or being left out are particularly difficult to process for humans as social creatures. But the impact is not only limited to how the brain processes the emotions and pain associated with rejection. There is also evidence that suggests not being able to “think straight” is a real outcome of feeling rejected.
According to research from Case Western Reserve University, exposure to rejection led participants in a study to have an immediate drop in reasoning by 30% and in IQ by 25%.
Rejection And Physical Pain Are The Same To Your Brain
Evolutionary psychologists believe it all started when we were hunter gatherers who lived in tribes. Since we could not survive alone, being ostracized from our tribe was basically a death sentence. As a result, we developed an early warning mechanism to alert us when we were at danger of being “kicked off the island” by our tribemates — and that was rejection.
The good news is there are better and healthier ways to respond to rejection, things we can do to curb the unhealthy responses, soothe our emotional pain and rebuild our self-esteem. Here are just some of them: