Is emotional pain worse than physical pain?

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Recent discoveries suggest that social pain is as real and intense as physical pain, and that the social-pain system may have piggybacked on the brain structure that had evolved earlier for physical pain. The present study examined an important distinction between social and physical pain: Individuals can relive and reexperience social pain more easily and more intensely than physical pain. Studies 1 and 2 showed that people reported higher levels of pain after reliving a past socially painful event than after reliving a past physically painful event. Studies 3 and 4 found, in addition, that people performed worse on cognitively demanding tasks after they relived social rather than physical pain. Implications for research on social pain and theories about social pain are discussed.

Source: “When hurt will not heal: exploring the capacity to relive social and physical pain.” from Psychol Sci. 2008 Aug;19(8):789-95.

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