Emotional (or love) withdrawal syndrome: what it is and how to overcome it

Emotional (or love) withdrawal syndrome: what it is and how to overcome it

After a love break-up, and especially in the first days and weeks after the goodbye, we can experience very intense feelings that, in many occasions, can affect our capacity to be objective and rational. Pain, sadness, anguish, the inability to concentrate and the desire to contact our ex-partner can lead us to situations of vulnerability, in which it is possible to let ourselves be carried away by impulses or outbursts that we may later regret.

Ending a relationship and letting go of the person we’ve loved so much is complicated, and even when it’s clear that we’ve done the right thing by walking away, there may be times when we feel weak and let our emotions get the better of us. In fact, psychologists say that in falling in love the same brain regions are activated as in drug use, which leads some individuals to experience the emotional or love withdrawal syndrome when they have to break up with their partner. This not only causes psychological pain but can lead to the affected person suffering physical symptoms as well.

In the following lines we will talk about this phenomenon and go into detail about its characteristics.

Chemistry in the Lover’s Brain

Anyone who has experienced falling in love knows that it is, without a doubt, one of the best experiences we can have. But there is also the other side of the coin: it is the lack of love. A situation that is difficult to overcome, which can lead us to an existential crisis if we do not know how to manage it correctly.

The fact is that the lack of love leads us to live really painful moments, because the brain chemistry of the person in love can make us feel addicted to our ex , directing all our senses towards that person and making our day to day life become an attempt to get ahead and recover our wellbeing even though we want to melt into the arms of our special someone.

When we have the “monkey” for someone

The chemistry of love can make us live on a cloud, but when we don’t have the possibility of being with the person we desire we can feel the “monkey”, as if it were a drug.

When we fall in love, our brain secretes substances such as serotonin (related to happiness), endorphins (hormones associated with the sensation of pleasure), adrenaline (makes us feel energetic) and dopamine, which has an important function in the survival of human beings, by provoking the repetition of those behaviours that are key to the survival of the species. For example, food or sex. But is also involved in addictive behaviors , such as drug use or gambling.

In this sense, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, after research, stated that “when love breaks down, just as when someone stops taking drugs, side effects such as depressive or obsessive behaviors, and even withdrawal syndrome can appear. Usually, this syndrome, whether emotional or due to drug abuse, causes psychological and physical symptoms, because it affects our nervous system”.

Symptoms of emotional withdrawal

The emotional withdrawal syndrome appears when we have to stop seeing the person we are in love with, either by our own will or by someone else’s. And in those situations where there may be conflicts, such as toxic relationships, infidelities, etc. its symptomatology may increase. Fortunately, some people are aware that these symptoms are temporary and that, with time, it is possible to recover emotional balance once the neuronal circuits are weakened.

However, some individuals are unable to cope with emotional pain , have low self-esteem or do not have the necessary tools to overcome this stage. As a consequence, they become attached to their partner: they are unable to overcome their addiction. In these cases it is necessary to go to psychological therapy.

The symptoms that a person with emotional withdrawal syndrome experiences are

Psychological symptoms:

  • Distress and anxiety.
  • Sadness and melancholy .
  • Desire to be with the loved one, to call and contact them.
  • Stunning and lack of concentration
  • Insomnia.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Obsessive thoughts .
  • A sense of detachment from life.
  • Inability to enjoy daily activities.

Physical symptoms

  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Headaches .
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Vomiting.

The duration of withdrawal varies from person to person, and in many cases it can be a brief experience, which disappears as the situation is accepted . However, as disaffection is not a linear process, it may be that the affected person experiences this syndrome frequently, because he or she is unable to cope with the situation or because he or she continues to have contact with the person he or she loves despite the break-up.

What to do to overcome emotional withdrawal

To overcome withdrawal and general disaffection, it is possible to follow some of these strategies.

1. Recognize the symptoms and know that it is transient

The emotional withdrawal syndrome has a peak soon after the break (the first month is usually the most difficult) but with time it is possible to overcome it. Therefore, it is important to recognize that one is going through this phase of the break-up (which is transitory) in order to try to control this very real and painful physical and emotional experience.

2. Contact 0

When you find yourself in the situation of leaving a relationship, continuing to have contact with your partner (with the illusion that things could be fixed) is counterproductive. This only makes it clear that emotional dependence exists and prolongs suffering if the real intention is to be happy again and regain well-being after a relationship that has not worked out.

For this reason psychologists recommend contact 0, that is “all or nothing” , because as with drug addiction, seeing the person you love and having contact with them encourages relapse. If we follow the logic of Classical Conditioning, exposure to the loved one reactivates the neuronal circuit that is involved in falling in love, so if we want to weaken it and recover emotional stability, we must be strong and break any kind of contact with the person.

Furthermore, if the feeling is very intense, it is even recommended to avoid contact through social networks, because these provoke some phenomena such as FOMO Syndrome that increase obsession and suffering after a break-up .

3. Distraction

One of the big mistakes that can be made at this stage is to give free rein to obsession and intrusive thoughts, which are usually common: memories and recollections appear again and again in our mind . That is why it is important to look for activities that force us to be distracted. Spending time with friends, studying or going to the gym work very well.

4. Fighting for one’s own personal development

When we leave him with our partner, the cost to our self-esteem is high. Therefore, we must connect with ourselves and do those things we like . Things that make us grow as people and that we enjoy. Maybe study that master’s degree that motivates us so much or sign up for dance classes. You know what really makes you happy and makes your life complete.

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