Taylor Lynne Trentwood, Ph.D
Job Loss? Divorce? Socially Rejected?: New study shows how emotional pain can be reduced.
A startling , ground breaking , new study shows that an OTC drug may well help to ease the pain of romantic breakups and social rejections This study relates to a great percentage of the population. Millions of Americans are susceptible.. Rejections triggers a very deep and important response as it can be associated with survival in the most basic levels of the brain. The emotional distress , for some people, can be so severe that it can create as much, or even more, misery then some actual physical pain.
Nathan DeWall, Ph.D, is the study author and his findings are not only valuable but also fascinating . It showed that brain neural activity was reduced in the area of the cortex that can lead to emotional pain. This is promising for all those in situations that can be interpreted as “rejection“ . Job loss, divorce, romantic “break-ups and rejection of important and ego-related ideas are among only a few .
A functional MRI (fMRI) showed the neurobiological unpinning of emotional pain was reduced for those subjects given the OTC drug. The study participants were all healthy students at the University of Kentucky. Findings show that the differences in those given the drug and those who took a placebo (sugar pill ) reached a statistically significant degree. This is the all important “proof of the pudding” in the academic and science community.
This study is important in many other implications as well . Most people tend to think of “pain killers” and especially OTC pain medicines as being helpful only for physical pain. Yet in centuries past both morphine and heroin were frequently used for psychological and even psychotic disorders. They were known to provide relief for patients with emotional/psychological pain as well as for wounds in battle or accidents. Doctors had little else to offer before the middle of the last century.
Subjects of the study operated computer games in which it appeared that the other players had strongly rejected them. This distressing/painful feeling was more pronounced to those on the placebo (sugar pill) than on those who were prescribed the OTC of acetaminophen.
Daily recording by journal keeping of a “Hurt Feelings” index also showed the effect . The pattern was reinforced in two different methods of study. Clearly, there were fewer feelings and sensations of social rejection pain when the subjects in the study took the Tylenol.
The brain MRI’S of the subjects who were prescribed the 1000 or 2000 daily dose of acetaminophen showed reduced neural activity in response to rejection. The functional MRI’s are a mirror of actual , real time , activity of the neurons of the brain while a person is experiencing a definite thought.. It is the most accurate picture available of neurobiological activity for this type of study.
The research did not , in any way , show that the OTC made the subjects in the study feel happier or better off as some reports indicate about prescribed anti-depressants. Yet this scientific study which demonstrated an effect of reduced emotional pain is both promising and exciting for those who truly suffer when feeling rejected in a significant way.
These results may suggest a new route of help in the future for those people who would benefit from a reduced emotional pain response . The overlap of the areas in the brain that are triggered by either physical or emotional pain are the study’s hypothesis for the effect. It appears that pain relief can be pain relief whatsoever the source of the pain. This can be only good news !