Not everyone has experienced being hurt emotionally but most people have been hurt physically. For Johnson Ade, 33, nothing in this world hurts like being rejected by a loved one. To him, it is more than just a figure of speech. Call it heart break or otherwise, Johnson, say being rejected is not in any way better than when you are hu

To the brain the pain of rejection really hurts

rt physically. “I almost killed my self when my partner after five years decided to call it quit. The pain was terrible. It took the grace of God for me to survive it” Johnson’s views about emotional pain may not be far from the truth as a new study has suggested that physical pain and the pain of rejection may hurt in the same way.

Researchers found that physical pain and intense emotional pain, such as feelings of rejection after a bad breakup of a relationship, activate the same “pain” processing pathways in the brain.

According to te researchers, the results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection ‘hurts. The researchers at the University of Michigan, further noted that on the surface, spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person that you recently experienced an unwanted breakup with may seem to elicit very different types of pain. The study also found that they may be even more similar than initially thought.

Comparing painful’ situations:

The study published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recruited 40 people who experienced an unwanted romantic breakup within the past six months. Each of the participants said thinking about their breakup made them feel intensely rejected.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers analysed the participants’ brain activity during two “painful” situations.

In one scenario, the participants looked at a picture of their ex-partner and thought about how they felt rejected during their breakup experience. In a different scenario, the participants experienced mild physical pain similar to holding a very hot coffee cup.

The results showed that in both situations the same regions of the brain were activated, the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula. Both of these regions have previously been implicated in physical pain processing.

“We found that powerfully inducing feelings of social rejection activate regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensation, which are rarely activated in neuroimaging studies of emotion. These findings are consistent with the idea that the experience of social rejection, or social loss more generally, may represent a distinct emotional experience that is uniquely associated with physical pain”.

The researchers say the results suggest that pain and social rejection may have overlapping sensory mechanisms in the brain. If confirmed by further studies, the findings may offer new insight into how social rejection may lead to various physical pain symptoms and disorders.


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