Break-ups are tough. They can not only break you down mentally, but according to a new study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, they can also cause physical pain. So that burning in your chest post split-up? It’s not a figment of your imagination, it’s real.

When people call it quits, they often speak of hurt feelings and broken-heartedness, apparently these are just more than clever ways to explain how you feel. Physical pain is sometimes a symptom of a particularly bad split according to Naomi Eisenberger of the University of Califiornia-Los Angeles.

“Rejection is such a powerful experience for people,” Eisenberger says. “If you ask people to think back about some of their earliest negative experiences, they will often be about rejection, about being picked last for a team or left out of some social group.”

After studying images of people’s brains were experiencing both social and physical pain, Eisenberger saw just how similar the two are.

A press release about the study explains:

“Physical pain and social pain are processed in some of the same regions of the brain. Physical pain has two aspects: the sensory experience of pain and the emotional component, in which your brain decides how negative or distressing the pain is. It is the latter that is shared with social pain, although some research has suggested that severe social rejection, like being dumped, can also be processed in the part of your brain that handles the sensory component of pain.”

While Eisenberger wouldn’t recommend taking pain killers to lesson social pain, this research proves that hurt feelings can be just as debilitating and painful as other types of pain.

Have you ever felt physical pain after a break-up?

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  • Candy 1

    I remember breaking up with my first “love” of 1.5 years, and it hurt my heart so badly. Not only did I have an irregular heartbeat, but my heart felt heavy, achy, and strained…kind of like when you first start doing crunches and haven’t gotten used to it yet. I wish I knew back then that I didn’t *really* love him ( I call it long term infatuation) and that it wasn’t worth it. Oh well…

  • Maharet Bloom

    yes. It took me 2 years to fully recover from a relationship. I’m happy now, but it was the worse pain I’ve ever felt