If you’re craving your ex, you’re not alone. Everyone knows that breakups are hard, especially when you still have feelings for each other. It doesn’t matter who did the breaking up, a connection is often felt for weeks (if not months) after the breakup itself. If you’re feeling hard on yourself for thinking about your ex too often, it’s time to give yourself a break. Did you know that you actually have a physical craving for your ex?
What Your Brain Goes Through When You Break Up
Being in love creates disruptions in your brain chemistry that increase dopamine, the chemical responsible for making you feel euphorically good anytime you’re around your ex. Your brain is hard-wired to enjoy the feeling of dopamine, so it releases even more every time you think about your partner. The more you love, the more dopamine you release and the more addicted you become to each other. While you’re in love, this feeling is great and really can’t be beat.
Some people call being in love seeing through “rose colored glasses,” and in a sense that is true. At the same time that your attachment is growing through dopamine, the feelings of love decrease serotonin levels in your brain. This causes you to have clouded judgment, blindly focusing on your partner, ignoring the negative effects on your life, and only seeing the things that you want to see. Remember when your friends said he was no good for you and you just couldn’t see it? That’s serotonin at work.
It’s natural for you to have these feelings even after your ex no longer makes you feel good. Your brain is starting to return to normal serotonin levels, allowing you to see things you couldn’t see before, but you still haven’t re-trained your brain to disassociate the release of dopamine with your ex. You will actually feel like you’re in withdrawal when your desire is not around.
This is similar to drug addiction
If all of this sounds a lot like the cravings associated with drug addiction, that’s because it is! Our brains are hardwired to repeat activities that make us feel good, such as how eating makes us feel better than the feeling of hunger. After repeated drug use, our brains associate the release of dopamine from these drugs with a good feeling, tricking our brain into thinking that drugs are healthy for us.
As it turns out, love ranks up there on the list of powerful drugs. This is exactly what is happening when you are craving your ex: your brain remembers the release of dopamine it had when you were around him or her, and longs for that “feel good” sensation again. This can cause you to have cravings to be around your ex, even if your rational self knows that your ex won’t really make you feel better. Once you re-train your brain to disassociate the release of dopamine with your ex, your cravings will subside, little by little.
It only takes 11 weeks to get over your ex
The good news is that science proves it only takes 11 weeks to get over your ex. In the grand scheme of things, that’s really not that long! The bad news is that 11 weeks may feel really long if you’re craving someone who is no good for you. If you’re feeling serious withdrawals from your ex, hang out with friends and family. When you surround yourself with people who make you feel loved, you will begin to re-train your brain to avoid cravings for your ex.
Being in a community will have healing effects on your brain and will help you bring about new, good feelings. Before you know it, you will realize that you haven’t thought about your ex all day long, all week long, or in months. On to the next, healthier relationship you go!
 ^ ScienceDaily: What falling in love does to your heart and brain
 ^ NIDA for Teens: Brain and Addiction
 ^ Taylor & Francis Online: Bouncing Back from a Breakup: Attachment, Time Perspective, Mental Health, and Romantic Loss