Q&A: How Do I Get Over My Breakup?


Dear Dr. Brit and Catherine,

Several months ago a woman broke up with me, and I’m still madly in love with her. Here’s a little background information: I found the way she broke up with me to be very inconsiderate and hurtful, I told her how that felt and asked for her help in dealing with the depression that followed. She refused the help I asked for citing that her privacy is too important (I wanted to know the things she wouldn’t tell me in the relationship). This made her angry enough to not wish to speak with me anymore. This happened a week after the breakup.

Now that you’re up to speed, my issue is this: I want to get over her, but I want to be able to apply that feeling of passion and devotion to other things in my life. I’ve never felt so strongly towards anything in my life as I feel for her; I’ve always had this nihilistic tendency. I’ve already put things in motion that would be truly great for me in the long run, things I think I could be very passionate about, but I’m only really able to do that by remembering my love for her as it is.

Most of the time I can handle being in love with someone who I can’t have any contact with. Unfortunately, sometime I feel like I’ve been hit with a ton of bricks. I want to see them, know how they are, desperately need to contact them (I don’t). All this seems to do is put me in a serious funk, or even deep depression for several days.

While I would gladly suffer several days of depression for many weeks of productivity, I would prefer to be able to move on. How can I keep the passion for life that I’ve discovered through “Gold” (my name for her on here), but go without all the pain and suffering?

“William” (not his real name)

Dear “William”

You have come very far in your recovery from your breakup, something to be proud of. You are still suffering, you say. Yes, you are suffering because “Gold” triggered an intense neuronal response deep down in your brain.

Areas deep inside the brain produce a neurotransmitter called “dopamine”. This neurotransmitter gives us enormous amounts of energy and a feeling of direction in our lives. This is why the neurotransmitter is sometimes called “the motivational chemical”.

Without dopamine we would not be able to move. People with Parkinson’s disease have very low levels of dopamine, which is the main trigger of their lack of control over muscle contractions.

When we fall in love — and I mean truly fall — our levels of dopamine increase radically. We feel anything is possible. We feel we could spend every minute of every waken hour with the other person.

While dopamine is needed for motivation, however, it is also highly addictive. So, when we fall in love, we quickly become addicted to the other person. Only their presence can give us satisfaction.

When the other person loves you back, this feeling of satisfaction by the sight of the other person can feel like a shot of cocaine. The rush feels so good. You want more and more and more. An addiction kicks in.

Then the breakup happens. The love is unrequited. What happens to us then? The dopamine high has created an addiction to the other person. So, we have now become drug addicts without access to the drug. Our bodies are screaming out loud. Our bodies want the drug. But the drug is not available. There are only cheaper and much less effective drugs on the market (the other men or women out there).

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