With the advances in technology and research in recent years it has been discovered that emotional and psychological pain activates the same areas of the brain that physical pain does. Anyone that has experienced heartache and believed it was a real and physical pain is right, or at least our brains process it in pretty much the same way. This finding has led to a group of researchers asking the question, if painkillers work for physical pain, do they work for emotional pain? They answer they found was yes.
There are many triggers for emotional pain and triggers such as the loss of a loved one or rejection from a romantic interest often see a rise in accompanying anxiety. Our brains are hardwired for connection, it is part of a very basic survival instinct dating back to the days when our survival depended largely on having other people to help us find food and protect us from wild animals, so any event that results in a feeling of rejection or disconnection tends to give rise to feelings of anxiousness and distress. This pain and anxiety then triggers the same areas of the brain that a physical injury does. We may know we should just get over it but we can’t – it hurts.
During these times our emotional pain may begin to affect our lives and our remaining relationships. Emotional responses such as anger may escalate and antisocial behaviour may result. Previously a trip to the doctor may see the person prescribed some sort of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, for which there are often side effects and a lengthy course of treatment. If it is intense grief that a person is dealing with this may be the best option, but what if it is a social issue that really just needs a little healing time? Well, it seems like a regular over the counter pain killer may be the answer. A recent study found that taking a pain killer such as Tylenol prior to an event reduced the emotional impact of the subsequent anxiety triggers.
While taking a common pain killer for a few days while experiencing minor anxiety and emotional pain may seem like a good option, it should be remembered that any medication can have side effects and even over the counter painkillers may damage your liver if dosage advice is not followed. Any ongoing emotional issue that is affecting your quality of life does warrant a trip to the doctor, and rest assured medication is not always the answer. Your doctor may be able to refer to you a counselor or help you devise an activity plan that includes regular cardio exercise, as both options have also been found to be effective forms of treatment for anxiety related issues.
Researched referenced in this post:
Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain
The Common Pain of Surrealism and Death
Acetaminophen Reduces Compensatory Affirmation Following Meaning Threats
Acetaminophen Reduces Social Pain
Behavioral and Neural Evidence