Sticks and stones will break your bones and words will really hurt you: heartbreak and rejection linked to pain centres in brain.

Psychological painThe old adage sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Has now been a study of research carried out by the University of California, Los Angeles. Research scientists Naomi Eisenberger started looking at the effects of human psychological pain and the influence, psychological discomfort, has on us, as humans.

Words can really hurt.


The Eisenberger research looks at the way rejection lingers with us throughout life. An example of this could be not being asked to a friend’s party or included in a friendship group.

Eisenberger and her colleagues’ research, involves using a video game called “cyber ball”; fundamentally, the participants were asked to play a game with three other players, in which all players in the game pass around a virtual ball, but in fact, the participants are not playing with two other players but rather a computer, that is programmed to exclude the volunteer. Participants are observed as the computer stops passing the ball to them. This might seem trivial to some, but some subjects respond strongly, altering their posture in their seats and making rude hand gestures to the screen.

Whilst playing the game, the volunteers are in a functioning MRI scanner. This records the volunteers brain activity and particularly recording activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex ( dACC). The research showed that this area of the brain lights up when the participant feels excluded; this region of the brain is known to be of the pain network.

Eisenberger and her colleagues, study showed that the more distressing we find an injury the more the ( dACC), shows activity.

Eisenberger research is confirmed by other studies, that show a link between social rejection and the( dACC). Further research has also found another part the brain called anterior insula also shows activity; this is associated with physical pain.

Painful relationship break ups can leave their scars

Research carried out by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan, in which the Kross and his colleagues, recruited 40 people who had just been through a relationship breakup within the past six months. Kross’s study involved asking the participants to view a photograph of their ex-partner, whilst plugged into an fMRI scan (a functioning magnetic image residence machine). Kross Research team would then asked the research subjects to think about their relational breakup. After a brief period of time the volunteers were given a painful jolt of heat into their forearm. This allowed the team to compare the two different brain activities, with two different sensations. As one would expect the ( dACC) and the anterior insula both showed activity.

The linking between physical pain and emotional distress, is confirmed by further studies, suggesting that the two experience feed off each other.

One research found out that when people are excluded there more sensitive to pain. One study looked at response people have of being excluded after being burned with a hot probe and submerging their hand into ice water for a minute. The research concluded that we are more sensitive to pain if we’ve been psychologically wounded.

Implications for the future,


The implications of this study, could be that patients with chronic pain, are supported more psychologically, as well as the routine of drugs.

Another implication for this is it might explain why certain people find it hard to withstand the rough-and-tumble of their social life with others.

Psychotherapy/ Counselling can help young people who Self Harm




An article in the Huffington Post highlighted the rise in the UK of young people, self harming. Although schools are wary of this, there is a real need for more school counsellors to help young people who are self harming.  Furthermore, there is a real need for counsellors to be trained in working with young people who self harm.

Self harming can be very distressing, especially in a young person, and is often bewildering behaviour for families who often cannot understand why the young person is doing this.  Self harming, Is often seen as a coping mechanism, and for some, is the only way to deal with unpleasant or uncontrollable thoughts, and emotions such as anger, shame and guilt.

Often a person who self harm report feeling better immediately after they have had an episode. People who self harm often describe themselves experiencing relief, and a sense of control, or euphoria. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last and the feelings of shame and self-loathing soon return and the negative cycle begins again.

According to the  Huffington Post levels of self harming  in young people is rising this may be due to, the stigma reducing and those who would not have come forward, historically, and now seeking help.

Self harm or self injury is often regarded as a teenage activity. In fact, although it does tend to be highlighted, in younger people. Self harming can continue into adulthood.

Typically, the media, portray young females as a prominent demographic, who self harm, actually, the number young boys who now self harm rising, alarmingly.

Counselling and psychotherapy can help, this gives the person who is self harming a sounding board to talk about their feelings, and  simply talking issues which are going on for you can often make be enough. Talking to someone who is not emotionally invested, and is empathic, in a confidential environment, is often the first step to recovery from Self harm, as a person feels they have space to talk about what is really bothering them.

If you would like to talk to somebody about self harm then Eleos counselling has many years experience helping client’s like you in  Crawley, Horley and Redhill, and Horsham area of West Sussex, UK.

If you would like to know more, click on the link below and we are taken to the Eleos counselling website. 

Self harming boys rises in England

A BBC News article, revealed that there has been an increase in the number of young boys admitted to hospital for self harm.

The article went on to say that these figures could be much worse because the secret nature of self harm has, and that young boys are less likely to come forward with issues of self harm due to them seeing self harm as a predominantly female issue.  A spokesman for UK website SELF harm suggested the children were likely to be influenced by what they saw on the Internet.images (3)

The World Health Organization is due to release a report in 2015 which is expected to show an increase in the number of teenagers who are self harming; experts expect this level to have tripled over the last decade in England.

In the autumn statement, this month, the coalition government announced it would in investment £100 million in mental health care for young people, over the next five years. The government intent is to make it easier for young people to access specialist help in their community.

Speaking in the report the care minister Norman Lamb said “Self harm  was a sign of serious emotional distress and is critical that young people get the help they need”

One of the suggestions in the report of the schools must do more, to help students, which is self harming. 6,000 teenagers, with some as young as 11 were included in the Health Behaviour in School Aged children report.  Which cited that 22% of the 15-year-old sampled said that they hurt themselves on purpose. With 43% said saying a self harmed once a month.