How over-the-counter painkillers could also help with social awkwardness

Imagine that the pain you feel from a physical injury and a bad social interaction aren't just metaphorically linked...they're actually two aspects of the exact same thing. So does that mean you could take aspirin to soothe your interpersonal pain?

That's the idea put forward in a 2010 study by psychologists at the University of Kentucky. They suggest that physical and social pain could rely on the same neural and behavioral processes to register feelings of discomfort. They then suggest that acetaminophen - a pain suppressant that works on the central nervous system and is found in most over-the-counter painkillers - could actually be effectively in easing the pain that comes from rejection and other interpersonal setbacks.


It's maybe not the most intuitive idea, but their experiments suggest there might be something to this:

"In two experiments, participants took acetaminophen or placebo daily for 3 weeks. Doses of acetaminophen reduced reports of social pain on a daily basis (Experiment 1). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure participants' brain activity (Experiment 2), and found that acetaminophen reduced neural responses to social rejection in brain regions previously associated with distress caused by social pain and the affective component of physical pain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula). Thus, acetaminophen reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with the pain of social rejection, demonstrating substantial overlap between social and physical pain."

Via NCBI ROFL. Image by jepoirrier on Flickr.

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