Originally we started with researching emotional pain, but as we begin to answer
this question, it is important to note that through our research we have found that
emotional and physical pain aren’t all that different.
SLIDE 1: Definition of Emotional Pain
“Unpleasant feeling of a mental or nonphysical suffering.”
SLIDE 2: Definition of Physical Pain
“An evolved defense mechanism that alerts animals to an injury thus
allowing them to protect their bodies and not damage themselves any further.”
As those definitions are correct there is a central connection between both types of pains
which allows us to begin to explain both physical and emotional pain and why they are

There is a strong link between pain and fear of survival. All humans and nonhumans have a very strong survival instinct wired into us that is controlled by the brain
and is tied to the sympathetic nervous system and your reflex responses. The sympathetic
system is the part of the nervous system that tells you to run away when in danger or to
defend ourselves (fight or flight response). How this is related to pain is if our survival is
threatened then we feel fear and other emotions. This is when our sympathetic system is
stimulated. Pain invokes fear and emotions because the situation is causing the pain to
threaten our survival. Instinctively, our body tells us to move away from painful stimuli,
similar to the defense mechanism mentioned in the physical pain definition.
So basically pain is the body’s reading a threat to our survival. The biggest threat
to our survival is abandonment. As seen in the animal world, an abandoned baby won’t
survive. The reason why being excluded from a friend group hurts/is so painful is
because it is a form of abandonment and our body reads it as so. Breaking up with a
girl/boyfriend or fights with parents also invokes the same kind of fear of abandonment;
therefore our body reads it as a threat to our survival.

So you may be thinking when I have a fight with my parents I know I’m not
going to die and you’re right! It’s the same with physical pain. Burning our finger or
stubbing our toe won’t kill us, but our brain will react instinctively as if it will. Again, it’s
our brain’s way of reading and reacting to our bodies’ responses to situations.
Going back to how physical and emotional pains are similar, they are active in the
same part of the brain. The anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex. They use the

same part of the nervous system and responses and they are both ways that our body
keeps us protected from the threat of our survival.
The differences, however, are few and scientists really haven’t figured it out yet.
Based on what we have researched, they really only are different in the way we think
about them. We think they are different because physical pain is outside the body and
emotional is inside the body and involved feelings of love, loss, etc.

So then why do we get physical symptoms like a stomachache when we’re sad?
Well, many of the body’s sensations we feel from both emotional and physical pain are
resulting from the sympathetic nervous system being activated, which then deactivates
the pava~~nervous system is in charge of regulating the calming operations of the
stomach and outer organs.
When the parasympathetic nervous system stops digestion and the calming
operations are not working, the brain registers this “disharmony” as a stomachache. For
other symptoms, as we understand, the activating of parts of the nervous system
deactivates other parts causing similar disharmonies.
What makes pain so painful is the different feelings that our body ties to that pain.
When you have physical pain, like cutting your knee, you have emotional pain because
your body is registering emotions, like anger or sadness, along with the physical pain,
even if you don’t even realize it.

How the body is detecting emotional pain is this…
Emotional pain is our body’s way of detecting a threat to our survival. This might
be confusing to understand because we talked about fear so much, which is an emotion,
so how do other emotions play into this emotional pain? That is how the nervous system
is reading it.
The emotional response is more of a social aspect of the fight or flight response.
With physical pain, this response is literally fight or flight, but socially it’s how your
body begins to read situations, like being excluded from a friend group.
Here is what some of your peers said about how they deal with emotional pain.

Start thinking about pain
What makes you emotionally hurt?
How do they see this is PAL experiences?