Does Heartbreak Elicit Physical Pain?

Our blog has previously covered the addiction state of heartbreak, how heartbreak impacts your health and how to hasten the healing of a broken heart. This article will delve into the question of whether or not having a broken heart can lead to physical pain.

Those that have suffered rejection and heartbreak understand the pain associated with it and now science has answered the question – yes, heartbreak can lead to physical pain and a great deal at that.

To begin, one research study* gathered participants to play a virtual ball game at which point they excluded certain players. This was followed by a brain scan that showed pain centres in the brain activated when the excluded players experienced social rejection. This form of rejection may be experienced at any time in life but would likely be most prevalent in teenagers and can lead to issues such as anxiety and depression.

A more in-depth study** involving participants who had suffered from heartbreak saw very similar yet much more intense results. Researchers asked a group of participants to stare at a picture of the person who had rejected them and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brain. This was followed by the use of a neurosensory analyser to introduce heat stimulation to the forearm starting at low intervals and leading up to 8/10 on the pain scale (10 being excruciating/unbearable). The results showed that the same areas of the brain activated when it came to feeling sharp emotional pain vs sharp physical pain.

From a clinical perspective, many people deal with pain that is stated around 4/10 which is quite uncomfortable and some deal with pain near 9/10 which keeps them on high end pain killers like endone. If physical pain at 4/10 can distract you from work then registering 8/10 emotional pain, which as seen above would feel like physical pain, would have a significant impact on your social, cognitive, concentration and communication skills.

In summary, emotional pain triggers in the same areas of the brain as physical pain and can rank just as highly in regards to discomfort. This comes from both social and romantic rejection and can last for extended periods of time. As mentioned in a previous article, time does heal all wounds but it may not heal it well – seek professional help in order to obtain a clean recovery.

For those interested in the research:

*https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Matthew_Lieberman/publication/9056800_Does_Rejection_Hurt_An_fMRI_Study_of_Social_Exclusion/links/09e41508aa626460df000000.pdf

**https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3076808/#!po=24.0741

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