News: Love hurts’physically

If you have ever been in a relationship or been the victim of unrequited affection, you know that, as the

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If you have ever been in a relationship or been the victim of unrequited affection, you know that, as the song goes, love hurts. Now a new study published yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the pain of rejection is more than a cliché’it’s very much a real thing.  

This research reveals that whether the pain is caused by something physical or an emotional experience of rejection, the same region of the brain becomes active in response.

"These results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection ‘hurts’," the study’s lead author Ethan Kross says in a press release.

Researchers came to these resutls by studying the brain activity of 40 people who experienced an unwanted romantic break-up experience within six months prior to the experiment. Participants were asked to perform two tasks: one relating to emotional pain and the other to physical pain. The first required that each participant view a photo of their ex and asked to think about their break-up. For the second task, participants were hooked up to thermal stimulation devices that delivered painful but tolerable stimulation.

Researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans to measure the brain activity of participants during each task, and they found that both the physical and emotional exercises resulted in similar responses in areas of the brain. Koss says these are areas of the brain that are rarely activated in other neuroimaging studies of emotion. This is consistent with the idea that social rejection is a distinct emotional experience that is uniquely associated with physical pain.

The researchers hope this study will provide a better understanding of how intense social loss may lead to physical pain symptoms and disorders.

This study looked at romantic relationships but what about other areas of life where people face rejection? What about group social settings? When I used to work at summer camps, some of the kids who had a hard time fitting in would complain of headaches and tummy aches. I used to think it was an excuse but now I wonder if that was how the rejection was manifesting itself in them.

When you experience rejection, do you feel it physcially?

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