Painkillers Might Also Dull Your Emotions

Posted on April 21, 2015

Headaches, cramps and other painful twinges in your body can be relieved by popping an over-the-counter painkiller, but the aches of the soul are harder to treat. Yet studies show that the acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol) can actually dull emotional pain. However, don't reach for the glass of water and the pills when you feel down - the painkiller can also dampen your feelings of happiness.

A study just published in Psychological Science had 82 people look at pictures meant to elicit an emotional response. Half took acetaminophen, and half took a placebo pill.

The study participants first rated the photos on a scale from positive to negative and, after a second look, also rated the photos on whether they evoked more or less emotion. The acetaminophen-dosed group tended to mark the photos as more neutral than the group that had a placebo.

Other studies in recent years have noted this phenomenon. A 2009 study showed that Tylenol can blunt the hurt feelings of social rejection - the hurt caused by teasing, say. A 2011 study suggested that the drug could also lessen anxiety. For that study, the researchers also noted that the exact same neurons fire when you feel emotional or physical pain, reports Psychology Today.

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Source material from Smithsonian Institution