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Last updated at 17:48 BST, Friday, 01 April 2011

Emotional pain can cause real pain, says study


1 April 2011

A research study published this week suggests that after the end of a relationship, a broken heart really can hurt. The study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that physical pain and the emotional pain can 'hurt' in the same way.

James Cowling

Woman crying

Can emotional pain be as hurtful as physical pain?


Click to hear the report:


You've broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, your wife or husband has left you and you feel rejected, dejected, broken-hearted. Well, new research suggests that intense feelings of rejection are as hurtful as physical pain.

The lead author of the study, Ethan Kross, said the reason is because the same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are also activated during intense experiences of social rejection.

The researchers hope their findings will offer new insight into how the experience of intense social loss may lead to various physical pain symptoms and disorders.

They also confirmed the notion that people from different cultures all around the world use the same language, words like 'hurt' and 'pain', to describe the experience of both physical pain and social rejection.

James Cowling, BBC News


Click to hear the vocabulary:


broken up with

ended your relationship with


fed up or depressed


upsetting in a personal way


experienced by the physical senses (e.g. sight, hearing, touch, smell)




revealing explanations


here, missing someone


signs from the body, which suggest something is wrong


recognised health problems affecting the body


idea or suggestion

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