Navigation Links
Experiencing existential dread? Tylenol may do the trick

Thinking about death can cause us to feel a sort of existential angst that isn't attributable to a specific source. Now, new research suggests that acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain medication, may help to reduce this existential pain.

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

According to lead researcher Daniel Randles and colleagues at the University of British Columbia, the new findings suggest that Tylenol may have more profound psychological effects than previously thought:

"Pain extends beyond tissue damage and hurt feelings, and includes the distress and existential angst we feel when we're uncertain or have just experienced something surreal. Regardless of the kind of pain, taking Tylenol seems to inhibit the brain signal that says something is wrong."

Randles and colleagues knew from previous research that when the richness, order, and meaning in life is threatened with thoughts of death, for instance people tend to reassert their basic values as a coping mechanism.

The researchers also knew that both physical and social pain like bumping your head or being ostracized from friends can be alleviated with acetaminophen. Randles and colleagues speculated that the existentialist suffering we face with thoughts of death might involve similar brain processes. If so, they asked, would it be possible to reduce that suffering with a simple pain medicine?

The researchers had participants take either Tylenol brand acetaminophen or a sugar pill placebo in a double-blind study. One group of participants was asked to write about what would happen to their body after they die, and the control group was asked to write about having dental pain, an unpleasant but not existentially distressing thought.

All the participants were then asked to read an arrest report about a prostitute, and to set the amount for bail.

Just as expected, the control group that wrote about dental pain who weren't made to feel an existentialist threat gave relatively low bail amounts, only about $300. They didn't feel the need to assert their values.

On the other hand, the participants who wrote about their own death and were given a sugar pill gave over $500 for bail about 40% more than the dental pain group, in line with previous studies. They responded to the threat on life's meaning and order by affirming their basic values, perhaps as a coping mechanism.

But, the participants in this group who took Tylenol were not nearly as harsh in setting bail. These results suggest that their existential suffering was 'treated' by the headache drug.

A second study confirmed these results using video clips. People who watched a surreal video by director David Lynch and took the sugar pill judged a group of rioters following a hockey game most harshly, while those who watched the video and took Tylenol were more lenient.

The study demonstrates that existentialist dread is not limited to thinking about death, but might generalize to any scenario that is confusing or surprising such as an unsettling movie.

"We're still taken aback that we've found that a drug used primarily to alleviate headaches can also make people numb to the worry of thinking about their deaths, or to the uneasiness of watching a surrealist film," says Randles.

The researchers believe that these studies may have implications for clinical interventions down the road.

"For people who suffer from chronic anxiety, or are overly sensitive to uncertainty, this work may shed some light on what is happening and how their symptoms could be reduced," Randles concludes.


Contact: Anna Mikulak
Association for Psychological Science

Related medicine news :

1. FDA Approves Drug for Older Women Experiencing Painful Sex
2. Atlanta Maid Service EMJ Cleaning Releases Discount Assistance Dates for Homeowners Experiencing Foreclosure Stress
3. Witnessing, Experiencing Traumatic Events May Worsen Heart Disease
4. Tylenol Liver Failure Allegation Claims Now Being Investigated by Resource4thePeople Attorneys
5. Tylenol Liver Failure Allegation Lawsuits Update: Resource4thePeople Reports Hearing to Consolidate Federal Cases Is Scheduled
6. Tylenol Liver Damage Lawyers Are Now Available through Resource4thePeople
7. Tylenol Overdose Can Be Deadly for a Child
8. Migraine triggers tricky to pinpoint
9. AWRA Brings Water Quality and Agricultural Sustainability Discussion to America’s Drought Stricken Heartland
10. St. Patricks Day science: American Chemical Society video on the chemistry of alcohol and hangovers
11. Lung Cancer Asbestos Victims Center Urges US Navy Veterans Stricken With Any Type Of Lung Cancer If They Were Exposed In Asbestos - Possible Significant Compensation
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... 25, 2015 , ... Lakeview Health, a Jacksonville-based drug and ... sobriety and show through pictures what a positive difference it makes. The social ... the hashtag #FacesOfGratitude on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Short stories ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , ... November 25, 2015 , ... The McHenry County ... recent successful appellate decision obtained by Attorneys Francisco J. Botto and Alex C. Wimmer. ... Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2015 IL App (2d) 130884WC. , According to court documents, ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Beddit® has launched a new Android ... The new app features a more intuitive SleepScore™ that rates sleep quality on a ... The SleepScore is created by a proprietary algorithm. Beddit analyzes the data to provide ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Today, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) ... below 10,000 for the first time since 2011. In 2014, there were 9,967 fatalities ... released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 32,675 people were killed in ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Privately owned Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization ... current state of the art research, development and manufacturing facility outside of Fort ... capacity as well as to support its clients’ growing research and development and ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 On Tuesday, November 24, ... trial against Wright Medical Technology, Inc. for product ... metal-on-metal hip implant device, awarded $11 million in ... week trial and three days of deliberations, the ... was defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous, and that ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 Kitov Pharma ... KTOV), a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of ... conditions, today announced the closing of its previously announced ... ADSs ), each representing 20 ordinary shares of the ... The ADSs and warrants were issued in a fixed ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... DIEGO , Nov. 25, 2015  Today AVACEN Medical announced the issue of ... Thermal Energy Including Blood Viscosity Adjustment ". This patent shields the company,s AVACEN 100 dry heat ... Treatment Method. Photo - ... ... ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: