Dienstag, 15. Januar 2013

Exclusion makes people sick

Belonging is a part of social sustainability. New findings in brain research show that this fact must be handled responsibly. If we are excluded, it almost hurts physically and as a consequence, we become inured. For this reason, brain researcher Hüther calls for a new relationship culture.

Exclusion makes people sick

Belonging is a part of social sustainability. New findings in brain research show that this fact must be handled responsibly. If we are excluded, it almost hurts physically and as a consequence, we become inured. For this reason, brain researcher Hüther calls for a new relationship culture.


Brain researchers have recently finally found out that in the brain of someone who feels hurt because of being excluded from a social community, the same neuronal networks are activated as if this person were suffering from physical pain. Everyone who, at home, school or work, has  experienced that he is not “right” just the way he is, has to suppress this pain somehow. Most people manage this more or less successfully. But at what price? The suppression of this social pain inevitably leads to the fact that the brain is not sensitive to all those painful signals that come from one’s own body.

The result is that you just don’t feel things properly anymore. You do not sense anymore that something hurts. This fact is ignored and you take it like the pain resulting from social exclusion. This is because both sensations are based on the same signal pattern that our brain produces. The consequence is that you do not respond to signals deriving from your own body anymore although, in order to stay healthy, there is an actual need to respond.

Can you now guess why so many people living in difficult relationships fall ill? Orwhy they suffer from postural defects and obesity or why they ruin their health due to unhealthy habits without realising that it does harm to their body? How can their brain notice that something is wrong with their body and intervene correctly, if it does not recognise the pain anymore? For this reason, an improvement in our relationship culture would lead to fewer diseases and to huge cost savings in our health care system.

Professor Dr. Gerald Hüther is head of the Zentralstelle für Neurobiologische Präventionsforschung der Psychiatrischen Klinik der Universitäten Göttingen und Mannheim/Heidelberg (central department for neurobiological prevention research of the psychiatric clinic of the universities of Göttingen and Mannheim/Heidelberg).

Prof. Hüther's interjection was published in the Zwischnruf series of DenkwerkZukunft.



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