Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain

July 28th, 2011

The Researchers: E. Kross, et al.

Published In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 108(15), p6270-6275, 2011


Breakups cause physical pain.


Getting burned hurts. And whether the culprit is scalding coffee or an ex-lover, the effect may be the same. In fact, this study found that young women experienced social rejection as though it was physical pain.

Researchers recruited 40 women who had recently experienced painful breakups that left them feeling rejected. In the first part of the experiment, the women viewed photos of their exes, and thought of their recent breakup (told you it was painful!). In the second part, the researchers applied varying degrees of heat to the women’s arms (with their consent, of course).  

The results? Women rated both pain trials as equally distressing, but even more interesting—social rejection activated the same regions of the brain that physical pain activated.

Though we often think of physical and emotional pain as two entirely separate feelings, this study suggests that they may be closely linked. No wonder they call it a broken heart! 

Beauty connection

Strong, positive relationships help us recover from heartbreak. After a bad breakup, try surrounding yourself with a support system of friends and family. A little TLC from your loved ones can help reduce stress and even keep your heart healthy, which will leave you feeling and looking like the beautiful woman you are—confident and ready to move on. 

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