Just got shot down by the pretty girl from accounting? Guess what? Your brain is releasing the same painkillers that it uses for physical pain.
A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry has found that the brain responds to social rejection in a similar manner to how it responds to physical injury, and, moreover, people who scored the highest on a psychological test for resilience also had the highest amount of natural painkiller activation.
The study took eighteen adults who filled out profiles similar to online dating. They then had their brains scanned while viewing pairs of profiles: theirs, and an attractive stranger’s. When told that the stranger wasn’t interested in them, researchers noted that the brain released opiods, despite the fact that subjects knew that this was just a test and that the rejection wasn’t real. Those who scored high on a test that measured resilience had a greater instance of opiod response.
Researchers theorize that people with low or abnormal opiod responses may be at greater risk of anxiety or depression, and that this data might inform medication in the future. In the mean time, the silver lining is that the sinking feeling in your gut after a firm but polite “no” is real—and your body is about to make with sweet, sweet opiods.