For those who listened to NPR’s Morning Edition today, there was an interesting discussion regarding a potential connection between acetaminophen use (brand name: Tylenol) and reducing the pain of hurt feelings (read or listen to the story here). Research indicates that acetaminophen can not only reduce physical pain but has the potential to reduce mental pain as well. This may be due, in part, to the neurobiological systems that are shared between physical and social pain.
Cautions on Acetaminophen Use
We’d like to offer some additional insight into relieving the pain of social rejection through this common over-the-counter medication. Although popping a couple Tylenol may seem like a simple solution to mental torment, it comes with certain risks and should not replace a treatment plan guided by a trained practitioner. That said, if you’re considering giving it a try for situational social anxiety, here are some things to consider before using it:
- Speak with your primary care physician before increasing your use of acetaminophen, especially if you have any type of liver-related disease.
- Acetaminophen can be extremely harmful to your liver if not taken correctly.
- Total daily doses should stay closer to 3,000 milligrams, but not to exceed 4,000 milligrams, in an otherwise healthy individual weighing over 150 pounds.
- Many over the counter products may already contain acetaminophen, leading you to take more than you intended. If you are unsure, please ask your pharmacist.
- Avoid alcohol if possible.
- Some side effects include allergic reaction, nausea, upset stomach, and liver-related issues (dark urine, fatigue, stomach pain, or yellow skin/eyes).
- Always consider non-medication options first. Have that discussion with your pharmacist.
It should be noted that, following this research, it was advised that these findings do not warrant the use of acetaminophen to handle personal problems. Researchers stated that future research is needed to explore and verify acetaminophen use in reducing emotional responses.
Other Options for Easing Emotional Pain
There are many healthier and longer-lasting ways to help you deal with the inevitable emotional pain that comes with being human. When you’re faced with hurt feelings, try some of these coping mechanisms:
- Focus on your values. If these feelings are causing you to doubt your self-worth, focus on your strengths and positive qualities instead of ruminating on the bad.
- Connect with positive people. Reach out to someone who you enjoy talking with. Send them a text, give them a call, or meet them for coffee. You’ll find yourself feeling uplifted in no time!
- Remember that you are your own worst critic. Chances are, the people you think are rejecting you have no idea they did so.
- Be good to yourself. If you were talking to your 3-year-old self, would you say the things your saying to your adult self? We didn’t think so. Be nice!
- Meditate. Focus on your breath and clear your mind. When negative thoughts pop back in, go ahead and acknowledge them, but push them right back out.
- Exercise. It’s one of the best ways to replace negative energy with positive. If you can exercise outside and connect with nature, even better! The Portland trail system is a great way to connect with nature without having to go far.
- Accept failure. Remember that failure is inevitable and some of our greatest growth can be found in what is learned from it.
Exercising these coping mechanisms regularly can contribute to your emotional immunity. Consider them your mental health “apple a day.”