The Miss Havisham Effect

Scientists say pining for lost love can turn into a physically addictive pleasure and have dubbed the condition the “Miss Havisham effect” after the jilted bride in the Charles Dickens’ novel, ‘Great Expectations’.

It describes someone who suffers a painful longing for lost love thus leading to physically addictive pleasure, and activation of the reward and pleasure centers in the brain, which have been identified to regulate addictive behavior. This is more commonly known to be responsible for cravings, drug, alcohol and gambling addiction.

It is natural to feel grief when you lose a loved one, whether through a break-up or death. However many people find it hard to move on, and can feel it over and over again for years.

I first read ‘Great Expectations’ in school, and was intrigued by Miss Havisham’s character. Now it seems I can also relate to her, with the obvious exception; I don’t constantly re-live the worst day of my life for pleasure. Yet, do I get pleasure from constantly living in the past? Miss Havisham suffered a fatal burning when her dress caught fire. Can I let myself suffer the same (metaphorical) fate, by pining for what might have been?

Well, I think I really need to work on my issues!

A new movie adaptation of ‘Great Expectations’ comes to cinema’s next year, with the wonderfully quirky Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham. Judging from the above picture I’d say she is going to do an excellent job.

4 thoughts on “The Miss Havisham Effect

  1. Helena Bonham Carter always plays the best parts. She’s such a great actress and is perfect for these strange characters. Thanks for sharing the “Miss Havisham effect.” That’s really interesting.

  2. If you’re in the UK they have a version coming out for Christmas with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, there’s going to be a lot of Dickens stuff coming out next year to tie in with his 200th birthday. Going back to the post, I suspect it’s not just a lost love thing, I’ve noticed that quite a few people cling to negative emotions because they’ve become safe and they’re afraid of the change that moving on for them presents.

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