Everyone has likely felt the nasty pain of a broken heart. Romantic loss can make you want to die, but this near-universal human experience is a hard part of life.
New research says that the pain from a broken heart may be real. Thankfully, those unlucky in love may be eased by the placebo effect.
Study Explains How to Trick Yourself to Get Over Your Broken Heart
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder from the USA carried out the study. 40 volunteer participants, who had experienced an “unwanted romantic breakup” in the past 6 months, were recruited.
Previous studies have shown that placebos, treatments which have no active ingredients can ease pain in a variety of conditions, including that of depression. This current study is the first to measure the effect of a placebo on emotional pain that is caused by a heartbreak.
The participants were asked to bring photos of their friend with the same gender as them and a former love, to a brain-imaging lab. Then they entered a functional magnetic resonance imaging or MRI machine to track brain activity, before being shown photos of their ex and asked to recall the breakup.
Next they were shown images of their friend, and they were then subjected to physical pain, which involved a hot stimulus on their left forearm.
Results showed that although not the same, the brain regions activated during emotional and physical pain were similar, which the researcher believes send an important message to the broken-hearted, “Know that your pain is real, neuro-chemically real.”
After the first experiment, the researchers introduced a placebo in the form of a nasal spray. The researchers told half of the participants that the spray was a “powerful analgesic that is also effective in reducing the negative affect and emotional pain”.
While the other half, that it was just something to help improve MRI brain scan imaging, that otherwise had no effects. In both groups, the spray was simply saline.
The researchers measured the responses in different areas of the brain and found that the placebo group showed both a reduction in social and physical pain. While the control group did not exhibit changes.
This has promising results for individuals who are caught in the pain of heartache.
What Is the Cure for a Broken Heart?
The researchers suggest that just doing something you believe will help you get over your former love and sooth your broken heart, can be powerful enough to influence brain regions that are linked with emotional pain and help you feel better.
The fact that you are doing something for yourself and you are engaging in something that gives you hope may have an impact, says the researcher. In some cases, the chemical present in the drug may matter less than we thought.