10 Science-Proven Facts About Breakups

couple breaking upWhen you fall in love, you're gambling your heart. It's for that reason that, even if you're trying to follow in Gwyneth Paltrow's enlightened footsteps and "consciously uncouple" instead of collapse into a sobbing heap or claw your ex's eyes out, breaking up is hard to do. In fact, scientific research proves it's tough.  

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Here, 10 scientific facts about calling it quits.

1. Heartbreak isn't just a metaphor. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam studied what happens to us physically when we're rejected unexpectedly, and as it turns out, breakups actually affect the parasympathetic nervous system, which involves sexual arousal, digestion, and regulation of internal organs (like the heart). When study participants felt rejection, their heart rates slowed for a while. It was even more exaggerated when the rejection came from out of the blue, and it also happened if the participant feared the possibility. Ouch.

2. Going through a breakup is like trying to kick an addiction. '80s pop star Robert Palmer wasn't kiddin' around when he sang about being addicted to love. A study from Stony Brook University compared the brains of people in love and those who'd recently split from their partners with the brains of cocaine addicts and stated that romantic rejection is a form of addiction, which explains why feelings and behaviors that stem from being rejected by your lover are difficult to control.

3. Reach for a pint of ice cream to recover? Nah! A recent survey from YourTango found that women are more likely to turn to wine than Ben & Jerry's while recovering from a breakup. The runner-up? Chocolate, obviously!

4. Rebound sex happens sooner than you think. Even if you're still mourning the loss of your old relationship, you'll likely score rebound sex at lightning speed post-breakup, according to University of Missouri researchers. 58 percent of the people in their study group had sex with a new partner within a MONTH of their split! But the rationale for doing it may not have been so healthy. Over a third admitted they jumped into bed to get over their ex. As you might guess, researchers warn it's not a lasting solution at all.

5. We're psychologically unable to come to grips with losing. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman's Prospect Theory illustrates how rejection (losing $50, for instance) sticks with us and is felt much more powerfully than gaining something (winning $50). In other words, our brains read a breakup as more significant than starting a new relationship. So we're more likely to say, "Nope, never again!" after a split -- even if that's obviously not the case.

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6. The more breakups we go through, the more jaded we may be about a relationship ever working out. Going through several breakups may make you think love just isn't in the cards for you. That's because, according to research from Purdue University, the more we are rejected, the more of a longshot the goal of being accepted by a lover may seem. (Key word is "seem." Perception is everything!)

7. The burn of a breakup may carry into your marriage to someone else. Almost two-thirds of married people admit their ex is on their mind too often, and 36 percent say their attachment to their ex actually interferes with their marriage, according to survey results from YourTango.

8. Messy breakups are more likely to cause depression than other tragic moments in your life. Events that involve both grief and humiliation, like a bad breakup, are linked to a higher risk of major depression than "merely" painful events, such as the death of a loved one, according to a study published in Archives of General Psychiatry.

9. Temporarily losing your appetite is a totally normal response to a split. It's not uncommon to see someone lose weight in the wake of a split, and that may be attributable to losing their appetite. Experts note that stressful thoughts increase our cortisol levels, which diverts blood away from your digestive track, leaving you with GI troubles, and making you queasy at the thought of food.

10. You may suffer an identity crisis. After referring to "we" instead of "I" for however long, you may feel like you don't know who you are anymore, according to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Researchers concluded that the more committed a subject was to their relationship, the more that person thought he or she would change after a breakup. This may not be a total newsflash, but it is a step toward helping people more quickly shore up their sense of self post-split.

Which of these facts do you find most surprising? Why?


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