While breaking up makes everyone feel upset, people knows to exhibit signs of depression have a more difficult time dealing with the difficult situation because their brain releases less of a pain and stress reducing natural chemical called opioid.
Scientists reached this conclusion after examining brain scans of people who engaged in online dating simulations. Before having their brains scanned, 17 depressed participants and 18 similar but non-depressed participants each viewed photos and profiles of hundreds of other adults.
Each participant in the Michigan University study selected profiles of people they were most interested in romantically similar to online dating.
During the brain scan, participants were told that the individuals they found attractive and interesting were not interested in them.
PET scans made during these moments showed both the amount and location of opioid release.
When volunteers were told that people liked them back, both depressed and non-depressed individuals reported feeling happy and accepted.
“Social stressors are important factors that precipitate or worsen illnesses such as depression, anxiety and other neuropsychiatric conditions,” said senior author Dr Jon-Kar Zubieta.
“This may be one reason for depression’s tendency to linger or return, especially in a negative social environment,” lead author David Hsu of the University of Michigan said. “This builds on our growing understanding that the brain’s opioid system may help an individual feel better after negative social interactions, and sustain good feelings after positive social interactions.”
The new findings have already prompted the team to plan follow-up studies to test individuals who are more sensitive to social stress and vulnerable to disorders such as social anxiety.
“The findings suggest novel potential targets for medication development that directly or indirectly target these circuits, and biological factors that affect variation between individuals in recovery from this otherwise chronic and disabling illness,” senior author Dr. Jon-Kar Zubieta said.