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

Emotional pain can cause real pain, says study

Summary

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.

Reporter
James Cowling

Woman crying

Can emotional pain be as hurtful as physical pain?

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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

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Vocabulary

broken up with

ended your relationship with

dejected

fed up or depressed

hurtful

upsetting in a personal way

sensory

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

findings

discoveries

insight

revealing explanations

loss

here, missing someone

symptoms

signs from the body, which suggest something is wrong

disorders

recognised health problems affecting the body

notion

idea or suggestion

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