15 July 2008

Why It's Hard to Say Goodbye

Research investigates the question of why some people never seem to be able to let go and move on:

...why do some people have so much trouble letting go of their grief? In an ironic twist, new research shows that the brain's pleasure center may be to blame.

Most people, when confronted with the death of a loved one, mourn intensely for a few weeks or months and then gradually manage to move on. A small percentage, however, become debilitated by the loss and can't resume their normal lives; they experience what psychologists call complicated grief.

The findings could mean that the brains of women with complicated grief have not properly adjusted to the fact that their loved ones are gone, O'Connor speculates. When humans become attached to someone, they derive pleasure from the attachment, and their nucleus accumbens activate, she notes. And because that area is also active when women with complicated grief see reminders of a dead relative, it may signal that these women have a harder time accepting the death of a loved one than noncomplicated grievers do.

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