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Coping With Emotional Pain

Updated on August 26, 2012

Emotional Pain Hurts Just as Physical Pain Hurts

How do you cope with emotional pain?
How do you cope with emotional pain? | Source

Emotional Pain is as Real as Physical Pain

Emotional pain, does not cause us to bleed. We can’t see it, but we feel it strongly.

The pain from psychological hurt is real and deep, yet it can’t be found by any diagnostic medical tests.A broken heart will never be seen on an EKG.

Very often, feeling distraught is isolating to the person who is afflicted by it. They suffer in silence, often not sharing their pain, or baring their sole to anyone else.

New studies, however, are revealing that emotional pain is as real as physical pain, and both show activity in the same area of the brain using brain imaging.

Our Brain Reacts to Physical Pain and Emotional Pain, the Same Way

Painful emotional feelings and physical pain is activated in the same region of the brain, called the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex.

A study that observed people who felt socially rejected, while playing a video game, found that people who took tylenol or the generic acetaminophen for emotional pain, as they would for physical pain, felt less symptoms of social rejection, and less hurt feelings compared to people who took a placebo.

Brain imaging after taking tylenol also showed the areas of the brain associated with emotional pain were less active. In our bodies, acetaminophen blocks the chemicals produced naturally by the brain because of pain. The study was conducted at the Universities of Kentucky and Florida by Psychologist Dr. Stephen Ross, discovered that our brain reacts and responds to physical pain and emotional pain in the same way.

The conclusion of the researchers is that tylenol may help people ease the feelings of emotional pain, like it does for physical pain.

They advise taking caution with these findings, as tylenol can damage the liver, if taken too often and excessively. They do not want people self medicating as a way to cope, tylenol can be dangerous if a person overdoses, or abuses it, or mixes it with other drugs or alcohol.

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Denial is a Way Some People Cope With Emotional Pain

While an analgesic like tylenol may help to dull the painful emotional feelings, we are trying to deal with, it is not a long term solution.

Your feelings need to be expressed, whether they are from grief, anger, rejection, and other hurt feelings, the only relief comes from really dealing with them.

Coping with emotional pain will help us heal fully. Through the tough times, we can grow, gain new perspective, and learn to understand ourselves better. In the long run, this will protect us from being in the same situation again, or to stop the progression of anxiety, depression, and other emotions that may compound our pain.

It is very common for people to deny their feelings, withdraw socially, blame others or themselves, and feel a deep sense of isolation.

The more we deny and inhibit the pain, the less we may think we feel. Actually, we are only thwarting our self development and pushing away our authentic selves. By doing this, we learn little from our experiences and make coping with emotional pain more difficult.

For Some People Denying is Easier than Dealing With Emotional Pain

Emotional pain can be socially isolating
Emotional pain can be socially isolating | Source

Coping With Emotional Pain is Very Difficult

We don’t want to feel pain, and we would rather not deal with it. Coping with emotional pain is difficult and may threaten our very existence. But it is healthier to take on the challenge of the things we fear, the things we would rather not deal with, the things that make us feel uncomfortable.

Signs of people feeling emotional pain, is often observed in people who seem unusually distant, quiet, and shut off. It is a natural reaction to protect their already hurt feelings from getting more hurt. Other reactions, include occupying themselves with busy things to distract from their feelings. Some people might lose their appetite or overeat to stuff their feelings.
They may look for ways to numb their feelings, because feeling nothing is better than feeling pain. It is all defenses, trying to protect ourselves from more pain.

Some People Overeat to Cope With Their Feelings

Overeating is a common way of coping with emotional pain.

As we learn more about the relationship between eating and pain, many people find relief from their discomfort when they eat. Studies involving animal and human research show that there may even be a correlation between certain types of foods.

Some foods, it is believed produce a kind of numbing response, which helps to increase the tolerance to pain. Foods that are high in sugar and fat may be more likely to relieve pain, discomfort, and distress.

Eating as a way to cope with emotional pain can also establish a cycle of overeating.

Maladaptive Coping Strategies Interfere With Your Abiltity to Grow, Learn, and Self Improve

When people use maladaptive coping strategies, to deal with emotional pain, they may also be more likely to engage in binge eating.

Smoking is another maladaptive way of coping with emotional pain. The more pain, the more people who are in the habit of smoking, smoke, including shorter intervals between smoking.

Cutting is another way teens and adults try to not deal with their emotional pain. Self injury through cutting by making scratches or cuts with a sharp object, on a person’s own body causing themselves to bleed, or burning their skin with a match or cigarette lighter, is a maladaptive practice of trying to deny strong feelings.

Often people will try to cope with emotional pain by over eating, drinking, abuse legal and illegal drugs, or running to the doctor with phantom pains.

Yet, when we are in emotional pain, there is something real that we need to address.
By paying attention to the hurt inside, we begin to heal and learn that coping with emotional pain in a realistic way, is the only path to grow personally.

Hurt feelings, feeling devalued, rejection, loss, and feeling alone really do hurt inside us. By the same means, there is power in healing when we feel loved for, cared about, valued, and connected to others.

Emotional Pains are Connected to Many Other Feelings

People have different ways of coping with emotional pain.
People have different ways of coping with emotional pain. | Source

What Are Some Feelings When We Have Emotional Pain?

Emotional pain includes many feelings, some include feeling unworthy, invalidated, misunderstood, rejected, worthless, unimportant, unloved, disrespected, taken advantage of, betrayed, inadequate, inferior, not accepted, humiliated, weak, helpless, shame, guilt, hopeless, bad, a loser, a failure, undeserving, low self esteem... well you get it.

Hurt feelings are associated with negative feelings about ourselves. Because of these negative feelings, people sometimes are hesitant to share their emotional pain.

The last thing you think you need is to have your negative beliefs confirmed and suffer more emotional pain.

But the reality is, these feelings are our invented thoughts that do not really exist in reality. And if some do exist, we have the power to change ourselves. But more likely if someone confirms these fear based thoughts, you should probably remove that person from your life, because when we are hurt, we need comfort, and you deserve to seek people who will give you support, especially when you need it most.

When we are coping with emotional pain, we feel especially fragile and vulnerable. It is in our nature, to not appear powerless or weak to others. By having one or a few people you can turn to, you can start to feel stronger, and better. And with that strength, you will find yourself better able to cope with the emotional pain in a healthier way.

Showing Our Emotional Pain Makes Us Feel Vulnerable

Men may be more hesitant to show their wounds due to society’s definition of what “a man should be”. Women, by nature, are more expressive and can talk more easily about their feelings.

But there is always some reluctance to speak openly about our emotional pain, no matter who we are. If we expose ourselves to the wrong person, we can make ourselves prone to more hurt.

We only want to tell someone, if we feel they will understand us, otherwise we risk feeling more alone. That is where a mental health professional can help you. They specially trained to listen, to not judge you, and to serve as a support for you.

Through sessions with a mental health therapist, you will learn more about yourself, and how to grow from within, and to gain coping skills that will help you deal with your feelings in a healthy and non destructive way.

A Support Network is Important in Coping With Emotional Pain

One of the most effective ways to deal with emotional pain is having a support network to turn to.It is an innate reaction to depend on other people for our survival and well being.

Psychologically, we have a need to belong. It is very important to look for and keep people in our lives who can show us empathy, who we can talk to, and who will listen, and give us comfort when we are coping with emotional pain.

Hurt feelings, feeling devalued, rejection, loss, and alone really do hurt inside us. By the same means, there is power in healing when we feel loved for, cared about, valued, and connected to others.

Challenge the Feelings You Fear and Coping With Emotional Pain Becomes Easier

The more we deny and inhibit the pain, the less we may think we feel. Actually, we are only thwarting our self development and pushing away our authentic selves. By doing this, we learn little from our experiences and make coping with emotional pain more difficult.

We don’t want to feel pain, and we would rather not deal with it. Coping with emotional pain is difficult and may threaten our very existence. But it is healthier to take on the challenge of the things we fear, the things we would rather not deal with, the things that make us feel uncomfortable.

Sometimes, in coping with emotional pain, people look for relief by self medicating with drugs, alcohol, food, and obsessions, and other destructive behavior that keep them busy enough not to have to think about their pain, even immersing themselves in exercise. When people numb their feelings they deprive themselves of an opportunity to make changes, grow,take action, and flourish from their experiences. Positive experiences, while pleasurable, do not usually motivate us to make significant and often gratifying changes in our lives. When we properly cope with emotional pain, the benefits we reap can be very great.

Coping With Emotional Pain

How Do You Cope With Emotional Pain?

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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      9 years ago from Washington

      Rhonda - those are all really good points...and it's very easy to see why people use all those "coping" mechanisms to get away from it because let's face it--who likes pain? I've always been one of those people who face things head on which in retrospect, I'm not sure these days if that's all it's cracked up to be either....but somewhere in the middle would be a good thing. I do believe though that facing whatever your demons are helps--in the end. It might be painful getting there but you will be healthier and happier for it and have less of that emotional pain.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      How do torture victims deal with their emotional pain when there is no one to talk to and people shun that person? How much pain can one person take before they lose it? Some events are surely extremely mind-altering.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, very well written and thought out hub with valuable information and advice within it. Emotional pain hurts more than physical pain does.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • meloncauli profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      Excellent hub. Some people are so good at hiding emotional pain. Thoroughly interesting read.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Hi Billy, Thanks for your kind words. You keep motivating me to do better and better : ))

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      9 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A very important hub my friend, and you did a great job in writing it. Lots of valuable information and suggestions in this. Well done!


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