Does no one understand you If so, you could be more sensitive to pain
Physical and mental pain – such as social rejection – may be processed in the same regions of the brain
But people who feel understood and valued are more tolerant to pain
16:51 GMT, 4 January 2013
16:53 GMT, 4 January 2013
People who feel they are constantly misunderstood may be more sensitive to pain.
American scientists have discovered that physical and social pain may be processed in the same regions of the brain, meaning one has an effect on the other.
The findings appear to work both ways; if someone is happy, they feel less pain. But if they feel miserable, they are less tolerant to it.
Feeling misunderstood Scientists believe mental and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain
In the study, published in the
journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers
from the University of Virginia examined whether feeling misunderstood
by others can also cause pain.
Participants were first asked to describe how they saw themselves.
Looking at a list of ten personality traits, they were asked to choose two that described them most accurately and two that described them the least well.
They were then asked to have an informal conversation with a stranger, after which they were asked to describe how they felt about the other person and read the impressions the other person felt about them.
The feedback participants got from strangers were rigged and randomly assigned.
Some participants read feedback showing that their conversation partner thought of them like the way they see themselves, while others got feedback that made participants feel like their conversation partner got them all wrong.
People who felt misunderstood were less able to tolerate pain
Researchers then measured the pain tolerance by asking participants had to stick their non-dominant hand into a bucket of ice water for as long as they could take it.
The participants who felt misunderstood by their conversation partner tolerated the ice water for shorter periods of time than people in the control.
While those who felt understood by their conversation partner could tolerate more pain and kept their hands in the ice water for longer.
They were asked to go outside and stand in front of a hill. Participants were then asked to estimate how steep they thought the hill was. Interestingly, misunderstood participants estimated that the hill was steeper.
Researchers hypothesised that feeling misunderstood could be similar to feeling threatened, which could exaggerate participants' perceptions to feelings like pain.
'The interaction with a stranger who misunderstood him or her could be like an interaction with a threatening person,' researchers wrote.
'To the extent that the state of vigilance requires energy…and to the extent that caloric resources available affects one's perception, felt misunderstanding could give rise to an exaggerated perception of the icy water, hill, and distance,' they concluded.