Sadness Vs. Depression
What Sadness Really Feels Like
While pride “goes to your head,” shame “makes your ears burn.” And happiness? It gives you that all-over warm feeling, those time-worn adages say. Turns out, there’s more than a little truth in those old sayings: People experience emotion as different physical sensations, and those sensations appear to be universal among all cultures, indicates new research from Finland.
The study team provoked emotions ranging from surprise to depression among 700 people and kept track of the physical sensations each person experienced. The results showed the study participants, whether European or Asian, felt emotions in similar ways. While fear and anxiety settled in a person’s chest, anger tended to center itself in the head and fists. Love manifested itself in the chest, head and stomach, the research shows.
The emotions you feel—for example, fear—help prepare your body to avoid threatening people or situations, explains study coauthor Lauri Nummenmaa, PhD, of Finland’s Aalto University. Your emotions also help you feel at ease in socially rewarding settings. And just as your emotions help prepare your body for different scenarios, the way you feel physically can reinforce your emotional state, Nummenmaa says.
[sidebar]Why does any of this matter? Apart from helping researchers create interesting graphics (like the one above), understanding how emotion and the body interact could help psychiatrists better diagnose and understand psychological disorders, Dr. Nummenmaa says. For example, depression appears to show up as a lack of feeling in the arms and legs. Knowing this—or recognizing a disconnect between the usual emotion-body sensations—could lead to more accurate diagnoses and treatments, Nummenmaa adds.
“We think that these [emotion] maps are important because they further underline the strong link between mind and body,” Nummenmaa says. “Emotions are experienced as mental, but also as bodily states.”
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Video: What Sadness Really Feels Like
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