How emotional pain can really hurt

Love really does hurt, just as poets and song lyric writers claim.

New brain scanning technologies are revealing that the part of the brain that processes physical pain also deals with emotional pain. And in the same way that in some people injury can cause long-lasting chronic pain, science now reveals why some will never get over such heartbreak.

Emotional pain can take many forms; a relationship break-up or social exclusion, for example.
But it does not get any more extreme than losing a loved one, as Scottish broadcaster Mark Stephen did.

In July 1995 he was driving a tractor while hay-making and accidentally hit his young daughter. She died shortly afterwards.

Mark's grief was overwhelming, he says. "When people talk about a broken heart, that for me was where it was seated, just below your sternum. It feels like your heart is leaking and you can't run away from it because you are the source of that pain."

Thinking he would go mad with grief, he sought help from David Alexander.

Professor Alexander is director of the Aberdeen Centre for Trauma Research. He led the psychiatric team that first responded to the Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster. Since then, he has been involved in helping survivors of many disasters including the Asian tsunami, the war in Iraq and, most recently, the earthquake in Pakistan. He also managed to get Mark Stephen through his darkest days.

Source - BBC