According to research published in the Psychological Journal by Daniel Randles and his team from the University of British Columbia, if you're experiencing "existential dread" from thinking about your own mortality, acetaminophen -- more vulgarly known as Tylenol -- can help "reduce this existential pain."
"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?
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