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Health & Sex

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Losing Love Has Similarities to Addiction

Aftermath to a Romantic Breakup Is Marked by Withdrawal, Relapse, and Cravings

Falling Out of Love

Fisher tells WebMD that rejection causes the neurotransmitter dopamine to wash over the brain, triggering feelings of frenzied desperation that can lead to behaviors such as stalking, homicide, and suicide.

"You crave the person who dumped you," Fisher tells WebMD. "You go through withdrawal, you can relapse, and cravings can be sparked months after you think you've gotten over it."

More good news is that though it may take a while, the researchers say they found that the greater the number of days since rejection, the less activity showed up in the brain area associated with attachment.

The imaging also showed that rejected lovers are trying to understand and learn from what happened, and the researchers conclude that falling out of love is a learning process.

"Romantic love evolved to start the mating process," Fisher tells WebMD. "Attachment evolved to help you sustain this relationship."

So what can the jilted do since there are no halfway houses for this addiction? "There should be," Fisher says. "It needs to be taken more seriously."

Her advice: "You've got to treat it as an addiction, and get rid of the cards and letters and don't call or write the person who jilted you. Don't try to make friends with this person for at least three years. Get exercise, which drives up dopamine and optimism. One thing we found in the study is that time does heal. Don't ruminate about what's happened, because if you do, you're going to plummet into depression."

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