Painkillers Could Ease Social Rejection

Physical, social hurt function similarly: researchers
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 24, 2012 12:17 PM CST
The feeling of social rejection is akin to physical pain, researchers say.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Someday, painkillers might battle more than just physical pain. The medications could be used to fight the pain of social rejection, too, researchers say. That's because the brain handles physical pain and the hurt of rejection similarly, a study finds. Scientists picked up on the connection while looking at images of the brains of people who had suffered social or physical pain. Physical pain has an emotional aspect, as the brain weighs the gravity of the situation; emotional hurt may likewise connect to the brain's processing of sensory pain.

What's more, people who are more susceptible to physical pain also tend to be more sensitive to emotional damage, the Daily Mail notes. But the head researcher says taking painkillers isn't the way to deal with rejection at this point: Numbing the pain could prevent a natural learning process to prevent such experiences in the future. Still, "the research is sort of validating," and it "suggests that there is something real about this experience of pain that we have following rejection and exclusion." (Read more painkiller stories.)

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