Can Tylenol Relieve a Broken Heart?

Broken hearts are a lot like headaches -- a study says Tylenol can help kill the pain

Not to state the obvious, but getting dumped hurts. A lot. If we had to describe it, we might compare it to getting socked in the stomach repeatedly for a good 20 minutes, give or take an hour.

The reason it hurts so much? According to a new UCLA study, heartaches and headaches are pretty much the same beast, scientifically speaking. They’re processed in the same area of the brain, and our noggin, as smart as it is, doesn’t know whether it’s been slapped in the face figuratively or literally.

When researcher Naomi Eisenberger realized this, she thought, does that mean pain relievers can kill the pain of a broken heart? And, lo and behold, they did. People who took Tylenol for three weeks reported fewer hurt feelings than those who took a placebo. Hmm, we think we smell a new product placement sponsorship for The Bachelor. Eisenberger is quick to point out that taking painkillers to dull your sadness might not be a wise strategy --  emotional pain trains us to avoid potentially heart-wrenching situations in the future.

The study also found that your tolerance for physical pain predicts how sensitive you are to the emotional kind. People who cry like a baby at the prick of a needle, for instance, will feel more rejected when snubbed by a catty coworker.

I’m not sure how much I buy it, though. My pain tolerance is through the roof, but look at me funny and I’ll be licking my wounds for days. When I broke my arm a few years back, the ER physician marveled at how calm and stoic I was. She didn’t actually believe I had broken it until the X-ray confirmed it. But when a former boss told me I needed to stand up for myself and show some backbone, I responded by breaking down in tears. If only I had known that I could fortify my feelings with a couple of Tylenol, I might have popped a couple before our talk. 

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