Heartache? More like Brain-ache!

Love is a dangerous substance to mess with, according to anthropologist, Helen Fisher. This blog narrates and comments on Helen Fisher’s Ted Talk on love. She compares love to being as risky as taking drugs, only that with drugs you come down from the high, with romantic love; there is no coming down. The part of our brain stimulated during romantic love is the ventral tegmental area that is associated with wanting, motivation, focus, and craving. She explains that it is an area activated with a cocaine high, however, its affects are much longer-lasting.

This is why love is a dangerous substance like an addictive drug. Romantic Love doesn’t damage or reside in your heart, but rather, it messes with the chemicals in your brain. So when relationships don’t go your way, these chemicals don’t match up with reality and brain regions associated with deep attachment, risk, and desire become even more active. This is a brain-ache. It comes along when romantic love fails, but one person in the relationship still loves the other individual. It is dangerous, and the aftermath has nothing to do with the heart.

Fisher explains that love is great and healthy when everything is going well, and horrible when it goes badly. When love leaves you “broken”, the chemicals in your brain are still active in the areas of the brain that stimulate the qualities that come with love, such as desire, fulfillment, and dopamine release. The hard part is, the person you’re in love with breaks up with you and you are left with conflicting realities; the chemicals in your brain are in love, but the person you love doesn’t love you back. It was also interesting because Fisher explains that love has all of the characteristics of a drug addiction: a build-up of tolerance, withdrawals, and relapses.

Have you ever felt a sense of conflicting feelings after a relationship ends? This is due to the long lasting activation of chemicals in our brain when we are in love. They are dangerous because they are hard to relieve…these conflicting emotions cause sadness and that is why it is referred to heartbreak rather than brain break.