Tylenol may ease more than just physical pain. University of British Columbia researchers have found that found that acetaminophen – the generic form of Tylenol – can also reduce the psychological effects of anxiety and fear.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, tracked individuals who took acetaminophen or a placebo while performing tasks designed to evoke anxiety — including writing about death or watching a surreal David Lynch video.
Compared to a placebo group, the researchers found those taking acetaminophen were significantly better able to cope with troubling ideas. The results suggest that participants' “existential suffering” was eased by the headache drug.
"Pain exists in many forms, including the distress that people feel when exposed to thoughts of existential uncertainty and death," said lead author Daniel Randles, with the UBC Department of Psychology. "Our study suggests these anxieties may be processed as 'pain' by the brain — but Tylenol seems to inhibit the signal telling the brain that something is wrong."
While the findings suggest that acetaminophen can help to reduce anxiety, the researchers said further research is needed before Tylenol should be considered a safe or effective treatment for anxiety.
But Randles added: "That a drug used primarily to alleviate headaches may also numb people to the worry of thoughts of their deaths, or to the uneasiness of watching a surrealist film – is a surprising and very interesting finding
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