One of the most interesting things we’re learning about pain is that both physical and emotional pain use the same parts of the brain. If someone feels the sting of rejection, most of the same circuits activate as if they’d stubbed their toe. Pain is pain, period, no matter where it comes from.
Some enterprising scientists (and Roy Baumeister, who has had his fingers in other interesting research) decided to check– if all pain is the same, would Tylenol help the sting of social rejection, too? They ran two experiments: in the first, they had volunteers take Tylenol for three weeks, right after waking up and just before going to sleep. In the second, they simulated social rejection by playing a game and not passing the ball to certain people. In both experiments, the group taking Tylenol reported less emotional pain than the placebo group. NIH paper; Pop writeup.
So next time you do something that could be painful- ask a girl out, get into a fight, do your taxes– take some Tylenol beforehand. It’ll help.