“Existential dread” can be treated with acetaminophen, a popular over-the-counter medicine often sold under the brand name Tylenol. Hey, I can’t make this stuff up. That’s the claim in a Tuesday press release from the Association for Psychological Science (APS), which said that researchers from the University of British Columbia, Canada had published the evidence in their journal Psychological Science.
Lead author Daniel Randles said that he got the idea to test the popular non-narcotic painkiller because pain is bigger than mere physical agony: “[It] includes the distress and existential angst we feel when we’re uncertain or have just experienced something surreal.”
Mm-kay. Because for a minute there, I thought you guys might be making up the whole thing.
Don’t laugh. In 2012, a University of California-Los Angeles psychologist published a study in the same journal. She said that her research showed that Tylenol eased the pain of … wait for it … hurt feelings.
Apparently, people who take Tylenol for three weeks get their feelings less hurt than people who just take a sugar pill.
In the Randles study, the researchers asked subjects to take a pill, which could be either Tylenol or a placebo, and then to write about what would happen to their body after death or else to write about dental pain.
The subjects who had to write about death but who had taken the Tylenol were a lot more easy-going afterwards than the subjects who had to face death with just a sugar pill.
To test the idea another way, the researchers then asked subjects to watch a surreal David Lynch video. Again, the Tylenol takers were a lot more chill than the placebo users.
Said the press release: “Existentialist dread is not limited to thinking about death, but might generalize to any scenario that is confusing or surprising — such as an unsettling movie.”
Maybe, and I know they’re all scientific and all, but come on. Do you ever get the idea that sometimes researchers are just having fun with the public?
Would you try to treat existential dread with Tylenol? What’s wrong with bourbon?