Love is the pain drug

Romantic love is capable of all sorts of things. It make the most hardened man willing to sit through a Jennifer Aniston film. It make the most feminine of ladies find enthusiasm for a Rugby test. Now, in addition to these transformative powers, it emerges that being in love can reduce pain.

To examine this researchers gathered people who professed to being passionately in love with someone. That is, they were identified as being the early and most intense stages of romantic love. Previous research has shown that this knee-squeezingly intense phase of love lasts for around nine months.

They then had the subjects hold a thermal probe in the palm of their hand. This allowed the researchers to impart pain via heat. At the same time they took magnetic resonance images of the brains of the subjects. While they were experiencing heat-pain the subjects were on varying occasions; shown a picture of their loved one, shown a picture of an attractive acquaintance, or asked to complete a word-associated distraction task that is known to reduce pain.

The results showed that seeing pictures of their beloved significantly reduced pain and increased activity in the parts of the brain associated with reward processing. By contrast, merely seeing an attractive acquaintance made no difference to pain levels. The word distraction task did reduce pain but did not stimulate the reward centres in the brain, it was merely a distraction.

This all means that seeing your loved one definitely reduces the sensation of pain and it is not just because it provides a distraction.

It is undoubtedly true that a complex interplay of hormones and psychology contributes to the anaesthetic powers of being in love. Yet might it not also be true that after hours of being called “smooky”, “pookums”, and “wibbly bear”, as well as having to reciprocate, that the brain finds mere physical pain to be a delightful relief?

Whatever the cause, ditch the pain pills and simply carry a picture of your beloved with you. When headache occurs take two longing gazes washed down with bittersweet desire as required.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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