Do you anticipate being snubbed at your in-laws' holiday dinner? Are you pretty sure your spouse will pick up a gift for you at the drugstore on Christmas Eve? Are you starting to take your unsuccessful job hunt personally?
New research may prescribe just the thing for your hurt feelings: the same all-purpose pain reliever people take for headaches, muscle pain and fever.
A study to be published in the journal Psychological Science set out to explore the link between the way we experience physical pain and how we process the pain of social rejection — a novel line of research that has been picking up steam in the past year or so.
The researchers, led by University of Kentucky psychologist C. Nathan DeWall, noted that recent studies have shown lots of overlap in the brain circuits that process physical and social pain. But no study has looked at whether medication that blunts physical pain might do the same for the heartache that comes from the perception that one has been spurned or slighted.
In a pair of experiments using acetaminophen (the active ingredient in over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol), researchers found considerable evidence that it does.
But, in an article on its research, the group writes that while it gained some "novel insight into the close relationship between social and physical pain," it did not recommend the "widespread use of acetaminophen to cope with all types of personal problems."
Acetaminophen, when combined with alcohol, can cause liver damage.