‘Broken heart syndrome’ is a real condition, characterised by rapid and severe heart muscle weakness (also known as cardiomyopathy).
It is typically associated with intense emotional or physical stress, which can be triggered by sudden shocks. One such shock can be the end of a relationship.
The breakdown of a relationship can be extremely distressing, but according to new research, we all have an innate ability to overcome heartbreak and find new love.
A group of researchers from Saint Louis University, U.S. recently reviewed several studies to explore the science of break-ups and how we move on.
They examined the process of breaking up and falling out of love (which they coined ‘primary mate ejection’) and compared it to the process of moving on and developing a new romantic relationship (‘secondary mate ejection’).
The findings suggest both environmental and genetic factors play a crucial role in a person’s ability to break-up and find new love. It is activity in the brain, however, that seems to be the most influential in determining how quickly we move on.
Dr Brian Boutwell said: “Our review of the literature suggests we have a mechanism in our brains designed by natural selection to pull us through a very tumultuous time in our lives.
“It suggests people will recover; the pain will go away with time. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel.”
In fact, a previous study conducted by researchers in China and Australia showed that, after a break-up, activity in the brain reward centre decreases. This indicates a drop in pleasure.
As a result, our brains will work to pull us out of this upsetting situation and drive us on to seek out a new, fulfilling relationship.
Anna Zilverstand, co-author of the Saint Louis University study, expressed her hope that the findings will lead to the development of new “interventions to alleviate the negative impact of break-up”.
For now though, counselling is considered one of the most effective means of support following the end of a relationship.