Why Does My Stomach Drop When I See My Ex?

Isn’t it strange how you can have a perfectly normal day, and then, BAM, all of a sudden, you spot your ex from afar? Your once-perfect day is now ruined by a flood of emotions and the feeling of your stomach dropping two feet down. But why would this be? Surely you’ve moved on? Haven’t you? To find out the real reason why your stomach drops when you see your ex, read on.

Having your stomach drop doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still in love with your ex. Instead, your body is reacting to the stress of seeing your ex and producing the fight-or-flight response. This may lead to other symptoms such as a heart rate increase and rapid breathing

If you’re wondering why your stomach drops when you see your ex, science has the answer. Read on to find out more.

Girls sitting on bench has stomach drop watching ex walk by with new partner

Why Does My Stomach Drop When I See My Ex?

Seeing as you’ve landed on this page, you’ve probably already bumped into your ex and felt that dreaded stomach drop. But why would this happen? Well, science has a very real and good reason for this. It all boils down to the fight-or-flight response.

It turns out your fight-or-flight response is not only triggered when you spot a real and apparent threat – such as a bear out in the woods. It can also be triggered by seemingly normal stressful situations (such as seeing your ex). Regardless of the event, your brain and body share one neural pathway in stressful situations.

Let’s break it down to better understand what occurs in your body and brain when your stress response is triggered. When you witness or hear a stressful event, this information is sent to your amygdala (a region of your brain) for decoding. The amygdala, which is responsible for emotional processing, will decide if this image or sound is a potential threat to danger.

If yes, then the information gets sent straight to the hypothalamus. You can think of the hypothalamus as the control center of the brain. Or another way to perceive the hypothalamus is the screaming boot camp commander telling his recruits to drop and give him 20. The commander gives the orders, and the rest follows.

The hypothalamus then sends this ‘potential threat’ information to the rest of your body through your sympathetic nervous system. It is your sympathetic nervous system that essentially triggers the fight-or-flight response.

At this stage, you may feel more alert and hyper-aware of the stressful situation (AKA your ex); your breathing may become more rapid, and your heart might beat faster. This is all done so that your body can prepare you with a burst of energy to respond to the perceived danger.

What Does It Mean If My Stomach Dropped When I Saw My Ex?

If you think your stomach dropping means you are still in love with your ex, don’t worry. Having this physiological reaction doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still in love with your ex (although, for some, it might). More than likely, it may mean that you haven’t fully healed from the pain of the breakup.

Research shows that there is a substantial overlap between the neural pathways when experiencing physical and emotional pain. When experiencing psychological pain, the same regions of the brain associated with physical pain light up.

So, to put it bluntly, love really does hurt. Because seeing an ex can often bring up old emotions, your body and brain see this as a stressful event. And what happens when your body encounters a stressful event? Your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, which can leave you feeling your stomach dropping.

How To Move On From Your Ex

Bumping into your ex can sometimes be a painful reminder of the breakup process. For some, this is a sure sign that you have not fully healed from the breakup yet – and that is okay too. Everyone heals and grieves a loss of a relationship at their own pace. Although everyone heals at their own rate, there are some tips to help you move on from an ex quicker.

  • Give it time. Time heals all wounds. 
  • Find a support system. Confide with a friend, parent, or therapist about your challenges with the breakup.
  • Avoid your ex. Cutting communication with your ex will allow you more of an opportunity to heal without remunerating and reliving the pain of the past. This includes blocking them on social media, avoiding communal hangouts, etc.
  • Distract yourself. Pick up a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try, upskill yourself for work, or simply get into that new television series everyone’s been talking about. 


Responding to the wise words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it”? – A lot. Love is more than just a second-hand emotion, according to science.  After a break up, you can experience very real psychological reactions –which can be completely normal.

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