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Love hurts, but break-ups cause real pain

Monday, Apr 04, 2011 - 02:40

Apr 4 - Researchers at the University of Michigan say the brain makes little distinction between the ache of a broken heart, or the physical pain associated with disease or injury. Gemma Haines reports.

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Finally, some proof that love really does hurt. Researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered that physical pain and intense feelings of social rejection hurt people in the same way. SOUNDBITE: ETHAN KROSS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHAN PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT, SAYING (English) "When people think about, or experience intense rejection, they may well well be experiencing physical pain in their body." Assistant Professor Ethan Kross says the university studied 40 people who had experienced an unwanted relationship break-up in the previous six months. While undergoing MRI scans, participants were asked to perform two unrelated tasks - in the first, they were required to look at photograph of their former partner. Then, they were asked to endure moderate pain caused by a thermal stimulus, the same temperature as a cup of hot coffee. By analysing their brain activity, the researchers found that each experience triggered the same kind of neurological response. SOUNDBITE: ETHAN KROSS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHAN PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT, SAYING (English) "When people thought about how they felt during this intense rejection experience, regions of the brain that were involved in the sensory experience of pain, so brain regions that become active when people experience painful sensations on the body, also became active when people thought about how they felt during this rejection experience." For those who've suffered a break-up - the results come as no surprise. SOUNDBITE: ANNA JACOBS, FLORIDA RESIDENT, SAYING (English) "Breakups are horrible! I'd say it's just about as bad as any physical pain I've ever felt. But the thing about physical pain is you can usually do something, like take Advil or put some ice on it or whatever. In emotional pain, it's just time." SOUNDBITE: RICHARD MCMURRICH, NEW YORK RESIDENT, SAYING (English) "Some of my breakups have been really painful - I would say even more so than some injuries I've had as far as physical pain. Even to the point that I broke down and was in physical pain over the emotional part of my breakup or the loss thereof of the person that I thought I loved and was going to spend the rest of my life with." Kross says the study shows that those who've suffered a traumatic relationship breakup should be taken more seriously, for they could be experiencing physical hurt. SOUNDBITE: ETHAN KROSS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHAN PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT, SAYING (English) "One important point I think that we can all take away from this is that we shouldn't trivialize people's reports of being in actual physical pain when they're rejected. It may not all be in their heads, to use that expression, it may well be in their bodies." He says further research needs to be done to examine how different strategies might dampen the emotional effects of the break-up and associated pain, in order to help people work through their negative experience. Gemma Haines, Reuters.

Love hurts, but break-ups cause real pain

Monday, Apr 04, 2011 - 02:40

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