7 Things That Happen To Your Brain When You Fight With Your Partner
When you're in a relationship, fights happen — there's no need to deny it. How often and intense these arguments are vary from couple to couple, but the things that happen to your brain when you fight with your partner are universal for all those caught in a lover's quarrel. There are some obvious physical symptoms — racing heart, rise in blood pressure, instinct to scream (wait? is that just me?) — that kick in when tensions are rising with you and your SO. But often people underestimate the toll a heated argument can take on the brain.
Because you're experiencing an avalanche of emotions, ranging from anger to stress, your body responds both physiologically and psychologically to fighting with your partner. And the response from the brain has both short and long term effects on your brain function. How often and how intense your arguments are will determine the degree to which your brain is effected by fighting. Since the neurological responses tend to be less obvious than the ones your body produces, you may not realize what's happening in that head of yours. To better understand what is (literally) going on in your head when bickering with your partner, consider these seven ways science explains what your brain looks like on fighting.
1. It Exaggerates
Ever feel like you're having the same argument over and over? You're not living out Groundhog Day, it's just your brain's way of responding to past threats. According to Psych Central, in order to survive, your brain responds with self-defense mode when threatened, and although our reactions were probably shaped by a legitimate threat in the past, it may now be exaggerated in terms of the threat we now perceive from our partner when discussing an uncomfortable subject.
2. It's Triggered By Cortisol
I'm sure there are those couples who have peaceful disagreements, but for most of us, arguments equal stressful. And when you're under stress, your body responds in strong ways. With a spike in adrenaline and cortisol, the regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear are activated, as Mayo Clinic explained. Which makes it hard to regulate the emotions associated with fighting.
3. Its Amygdala Gets Primitive
There's a part of your brain that goes into beast mode when something makes you angry. As the website for National Geographic explained, the amygdala is the primitive part of your brain that causes you to get worked up in an argument. Once the amygdala goes into action, the rest of the body follows suit.
4. It Messes With Your Memory
Too many fights could be the reason you keep forgetting to pick up milk on your way home. According to Reader's Digest, exposure to stressors, like arguing, can cause memory to suffer due to the damaging of the stems cells that support memory function.
5. It Becomes More Anxious
Just because you send your SO to sleep on the couch after an argument doesn't mean your troubles are over. As Everyday Health pointed out, anger can make anxiety worse, and contribute to an unhealthy cycle of the two.
6. It Goes To "Fight, Flight, Or Freeze" Mode
Believe it or not, the instinct to fight goes back to your primal need to survive. But when a threat is perceived, your brain goes into one of three reflex modes: fight, flight, or freeze, according to Psych Central. Each one offers a way to protect yourself from what you perceive as threatening you.
7. You Become A Monkey Or A Lizard
The Scottish Center for Conflict Resolution has narrowed down fighting styles to two ancient animals: monkeys and lizards. The old brain (fight or flight) is called the lizard, while the more cognitively evolved brain (with problem solving) is the monkey. Find out which animal you fight like with this online quiz from the Center's website.