Painkillers may help soothe the heartache of a break-up as well as ease a sore head – but not for men.
Scientists say women who take ibuprofen can feel less upset by failed romance.
A study showed they experienced less hurt from social rejection or while recalling past betrayal.
But the effect did not apply to men.
Volunteers joined in a virtual game of ‘catch’ when others stopped throwing a ball to them, or they wrote about a betrayal by someone close.
Women on ibuprofen reported less social pain afterwards.
University of Californa researchers believe the drug blunts female sensitivities but disrupts the male urge to suppress emotional pain.
Their report, in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioural and Brain Sciences, sums up several studies, including tests which found that patients on paracetamol were less distressed by unpleasant images or reading about other people’s suffering.
They talk of using the drugs to help with problems such as depression and social anxiety disorder.
But lead author Dr Kyle Ratner calls the findings ‘alarming’ because consumers do not anticipate psychological effects from painkillers.
And other experts say that emotional pain if often a healthy response which helps lead to recovery.