When Someone Hurts Your Feelings --
What Exactly Feels Pain?
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July 27, 2015
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist







A cold wave in your chest, a kick in your stomach, a feeling that
your heart has stopped -- al of these are ways that people
describe how it feels to have their feelings hurt. It's a mystery,
really, and something extraordinary when you think out it. How
can someone actually cause you physical pain without touching
you? What is this power? And what target in our body is "hurt"
when our feelings get hurt? Where do "feelings" reside in our
bodies, any way?

"The Words Hurt So Bad, I Couldn't Catch My Breath"

The body is a mysterious thing. Emotions are connected to our
physical selves.  Scientists have learned that when we get
emotional, especially when those emotions are negative, we
experience a bundle of reactions. Our heats race, our may
suddenly dilate or constrict, our eyes dilate. These are the same
physical reactions we have when we have been physically hurt.


A person is told by their beloved that the relationship is over. The
wounded person may feel as though their heart is breaking
because, well, it is.

A breaking heart experiences physical pain. In a 2010 study led
by Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, 15 people who recently
had been dumped had their brains scanned as they looked at
pictures of their ex-loves.  

Simply viewing the pictures stimulated the insular cortex and the
anterior cingulated regions
of the brain. These are the areas of
the brain that are stimulated when you are physically hurt.



What about other types of pain not involving love? When you are
insulted, the same regions of the brain --- the anterior cingulate
cortex --- is activated as when you are rejected by a loved one,
according to a 2009 study from the University of Arizona and the
University of Maryland.

The Anterior Cingulate Cortex Also Helps Control Blood Pressure
and Heart Rate


The anterior cingulate cortex is also involved in regulating blood
pressure and heart rate.


Thus, when your feelings are hurt, your blood pressure may
skyrocket, your heart may race, and you may feel panicked. The
sudden change in blood pressure can challenge your body's
ability to keep up. Arteries may not dilate fast enough to
accommodate the increased blood flow. You may then feel a
clenching, almost a seizing feeling in your chest, a sensation of
cold.

To use an analogy, when your brain registers a shock of
disappointment, the signal to dilate your arteries to accommodate
the increased blood flow is like sending a fast moving car into a
concrete wall.   

Stress Cardiomyopathy from a Broken Heart Literally Can Kill You






























Dr. Scott W. Sharkey led a 2011 study of this phenomenon
published in the Journal "Cardiology". The condition also known
as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is triggered in these situations
85% of the time:


  • grief such as experiencing the death of a loved one
  • intense fear (armed robbery, public speaking)
  • anger (having an intense argument with your spouse),
  • severe relationship conflicts (such as a divorce or
    separation)

  • financial problems (gambling loss, job loss)

The Seat of Your Emotions Is in Your Heart

The brain may start the cascade of physical reactions but it is
your heart that experiences the pain of Takotsubo.  The Women
over 50 experience Takotsubo cardiomyopathy more than any
other age group.

When the brain registered a severe emotional shock, it ca trigger
the release of an overwhelming amount of adrenaline. Adrenaline
is a powerful chemical, albeit a natural one.  The flood of
adrenaline actually can damage the heart muscle. It can kill you if
you are not stabilised in time.

The stimulation of the anterior cingulate cortex can also recruit
activity of the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve connects your brain
to your neck, abdomen and, yes, your chest.


You Should Take Emotional Pain Very Seriously

If you find certain types of arguments, people or situations
extremely stressful, you should avoid them, especially if your
health is otherwise compromised. Is your blood pressure on the
high side? Have you had previous heart problems or stroke?  You
simply have to avoid stressful situations and people.

As with most health conditions, prevention is a better approach
than treatment.

None of us can avoid the shocks and losses of life. But very few
of us know just how deadly these shocks can be. You should
never, ever try to simply "tough it out".  Losing a spouse, losing
an important relationship should be thought of as medical
emergencies. You have to pro-actively protect your heart from
these shocks.

Here are a few tips that can help to insulate you from the physical
effects of an emotional shock:

  • Schedule a therapeutic back massage

  • Don't have money for a massage? Soak your feet in a pan of
    warm sudsy water

  • Engage in stretching, deep breathing

  • Listen to your favorite, relaxing music every day for at least
    30 minutes

  • Join a yoga class or practice using youtube

  • Get away for a short vacation to decompress, if time and
    budget permit

  • thank yourself, your brain and your body  every day for
    enduring

  • go see an uplifting or funny movie

  • Volunteer at a charity -- this helps you to get out of your
    own head and into something larger


Above all, be aware. Simply listening carefully to the rise and fall
of your breath helps you to focus on your body and help to keep
you relaxed.

































































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Sudden stress can damage your heart
muscle.