Why do sensations such as heartbreak/sadness/anxiety feel like physical pain?


Why do sensations such as heartbreak/sadness/anxiety feel like physical pain?

In: Biology

To grossly oversimplify, negative emotions like heartbreak, rejection, and embarrassment, trigger some of the same regions in the brain as physical pain. Specifically, the secondary somatosensory cortex and dorsal posterior insula.

Processing these emotions as if they were physical pain helps your brain teach itself to avoid the feelings in the future.

When emotions are strong enough they can trigger your fight or flight response. During this blood is pulled from your digestive system/stomach (to prepare to fight or run) and creates a physical sinking feeling in your chest/stomach.

Usually, feelings make your body have a physical response, this happens for a bunch of reasons, like a primal instinct of self preservation. They make your body release more hormones like adrenaline and others, and these are the ones that make you feel physical pain amongst other stuff.

Basically, these emotions trigger some of the same pathways that physical pain triggers.

In fact, it has been shown that painkillers such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) can actually help reduce social pain such as rejection. [Source](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20548058)

Because we have to feel it physically or else they don’t mean anything…something something Im15andthisisdeep

Being in love releases dopamine, and drugs like heroin create the same sort of warm, amazing feelings. So it’s a type of literal withdrawl.

When you feel an unwanted sensation, you or parts of you contract. Someone pokes you? You either completely release because you trust the touch, or you contract to shield yourself from the pressure (and of course there are seemingly infinite variances between the extremes).

Some people may even contract from feelings of love or concern for reasons such as a belief that they do not deserve them or do not trust them. You tighten to avoid a signal, such as loss, a communication which is either external or internal saying something like “I don’t love you.” You reject that notion and squeeze upon it to shield yourself from something you perceive to be false. Flex something or push/hit against something hard enough and you will experience something we call pain. A bombardment of atoms causing a “disruptive” or “uncomfortable” wave pattern.


as a literal ELI5, they are registered in the same area of the brain. getting called “worthless” would register as much as being hit in the stomach with a baseball bat.

this statement is true– over the counter pain killers double as emotional pain-killers. That’s something not everyone should know. That’s why people get so addicted to pills. They’re anti-depressants.

Secondary somatosensory cortex and posterior insula. Basically, your brain releases the same chemicals that it would otherwise with physical pain from injury.

The vagus nerve get strained when you are under stress so it feels like a heartbreak. The first answer sums it up.

We’ve got this whole complex psyche thing going on that emerges from this organ that’s evolved from jellyfish to lizard to primate, with all the responses it’s needed along the way.

At this point we’ve got this high level functioning consciousness with fine tuned analytic capacity. Feelings are communications from deeper in our psyche, ways of assessing information and communicating it to early rudimentary executive functioning in a way that generates a response (as pain or other sensations in our body.)

Our consciousness can only attend to so much information, this focus possible because much uncertainty is already attended to, responsibilities shared rather than surviving as the single organism of our early evolutionary history. But we still have these early capacities in varying degrees to assess broad amounts of information in much more chaotic environments. The results of this information processing arises as feelings.

A lot, perhaps most, of emotional and behavioural dysfunction exists as a result of higher level capacities being overwhelmed, leaving more fundamental responses to take over. Which were effective a few million or billion years ago, but not so much now.

Not to me or many others. I have no experience in what you are describing. Perhaps end you question with “for some people”

My take on it. We suffer physical pain when the mechanisms within our body that we use to sustain life suffer impairment or injury.

As social creatures, we rely on relationships for survival. To suffer an impairment or injury to that mechanism on which our survival depends, is dangerous. Basically, it hurts our ability to survive and procreate so it feels like it hurts.

An example. A group of cavemen get along well and survive. One caveman starts being a dick and the group ostracized him. He’s gonna feel sad, lonely, and probably a bit heartbroken. What’s this gonna spur him to do? How capable of surviving and procreating is he now? He’s gonna go back to the group, he’s gonna survive, and he’s gonna have babies that feel the same way when they get kicked out of the survival group.

Hope this answers your question.

Back in the day when we were in the hunter/gatherer era, when someone was excommunicated or pushed from a group that most likely meant that the banished individual would die by themselves, and we carry that feeling when we go through similar situations to this day

Also why do we cry bc of sadness ?