Study Reveals Possible Link Between Social And Physical Pain
A new study led by researcher Naomi Eisenberger, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) reveals a possible link between social and physical pain. The study was recently published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.
According to Eisenberger a survey was conducted, that asked patients about negative past experiences. She says that most of the answers given by the patients were related to broken hearts and hurt feelings. Along with her colleague, Dr. Eisenberger noticed numerous similarities between the brain activity images of patients who had suffered an emotional pain and of patients who had suffered from a sort of physical pain in the past.
The similarities observed by the two colleagues led to further research. It is known that both social and physical pain are processed in similar areas of the brain. Physical pain is based on two components: sensory experience and emotional reaction. Through the emotional reaction, the brain determines the intensity of the pain. It is also the component shared with social pain. Some researchers believe that severe social pain might also be processed by the brain area involved in sensory experience.
A computer generated program reveals that patients that are more delicate when it comes to physical pain and even more delicate when it comes to social pain. The discovery was made using a computer program that simulates rejection, which is felt by the patient who is taking the test. A different study also shows that patients taking Tylenol (an analgesic and antipyretic) proved to be less sensitive to social pain than patients what were on placebo medication. The discovery surprised even Dr. Eisenberger, who said that even though it’s hard to imagine, the study shows a correlation between social and physical pain.
“We take Tylenol for physical pain; it’s not supposed to work on social pain” , says Dr. Eisenberger who also added that taking analgesic medication in order to relieve social pain is not recommended, as the experience of social pain could be valuable to people. Although against taking analgesic medication in social pain cases, she notes that there are particular cases in which social pain can prove to be too much to handle for patients.
Dr. Eisenberger and her colleague suggest the study results that somehow prove that social pain is a real experience should be taken more into consideration.