The surprising way to deal with rejection: how our brains help mend a broken heart
So what are you to do if you’ve been snubbed by a friend? Given the cold shoulder by a colleague? Or worse, find yourself on the sad side of an unrequited love affair?
It turns out help is much closer than you think.
A study from the University of Michigan’s medical school has found that our brains are hardwired to protect us from the pain of rejection.
The research, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry , reveals that the brain releases feel-good chemicals called opioids to counter “social pain”.
Lead researcher David T Hsu says our brains react in a near identical way when we experience either physical or social pain.
“This is the first study to peer into the human brain to show that the opioid system is activated during social rejection,” he said.
“In general, opioids have been known to be released during social distress and isolation in animals, but where this occurs in the human brain has not been shown until now.”
The research used a PET scanner, which tracks brain activity, and told the subjects their ‘love interest’ didn’t share their feelings.
Even with simulated rejection (the unrequited love test was staged), subjects still showed signs of rejection and emotional pain, triggering the release of these feel-good chemicals.
“The opioid system is known to play a role in both reducing pain and promoting pleasure, and our study shows that it also does this in the social environment,” Dr Tsu added.
So next time you’re left hanging, just remember: your brain’s coming to rescue that broken heart.