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The researchers had actually informed participants ahead of time that the "dating" profiles were not real, and neither was the "rejection" or "acceptance." Nonetheless, the simulated online dating scenario was enough to cause both an emotional and opioid response.
Natural painkillers A team from the University of Michigan Medical School, Stony Brook University and the University of Illinois at Chicago worked together on the study, which builds on previous work about social rejection in non-depressed people.
This surprised the researchers, says Hsu, because depression's symptoms often include a dulled response to positive events that should be enjoyable.
However, the positive feeling in depressed individuals disappeared quickly after the period of social acceptance had ended, and may be related to altered opioid responses. (now at Oregon Health & Science University), Brian Mickey, M.
This may be one reason for depression's tendency to linger or return, especially in a negative social environment," says lead author David Hsu, Ph. "This builds on our growing understanding that the brain's opioid system may help an individual feel better after negative social interactions, and sustain good feelings after positive social interactions." The researchers focused on the mu-opioid receptor system in the brain -- the same system that they have studied for years in relation to response to physical pain.
During physical pain, our brains release opioids to dampen pain signals. "Social stressors are important factors that precipitate or worsen illnesses such as depression, anxiety and other neuropsychiatric conditions.
A painful breakup can cause you to fall into depression.
You miss your ex (even if you know the breakup is for the best), you’re feeling miserable and crying often, or maybe you just feel numb and empty.
In contrast, study participants with depression (right column) did not release nearly as many opioids, which may contribute to a lingering depressed mood following rejection.
The pain of social rejection lasts longer for them -- and their brain cells release less of a natural pain and stress-reducing chemical called natural opioids, researchers report in the journal .
The pain of social rejection lasts longer for them -- and their brain cells release less of a natural pain and stress-reducing chemical called natural opioids.
The brains of healthy individuals (left column) released natural opioids during social rejection (colored spots) that may help to reduce negative emotions associated with rejection.
Just "shake it off" and move on, as music star Taylor Swift says.