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Show Don’t Tell

This post was written by CH alum, Amy Behrens. 

If someone is seeking mental health treatment, could it be more helpful to ask where it hurts than to ask how the person is feeling?

According to new research on emotions, it might be. A group of researcher asked study participants to show them where they feel 14 different emotions in their bodies. Not surprisingly, across participants, the feeling of love showed up around the heart and with butterflies in the stomach, while shame resulted in a warming face. Some more interesting findings were that participants associated anger with their arms and depression with not feeling much at all.

Image of body maps to show emotions

Courtesy of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Health care providers (and health literacy experts) often struggle with communicating about emotions and getting patients to accurately express their feelings. By using a tangible, visual tool, providers may be able to draw out more information from patients, resulting in better diagnoses — or at the very least adding in one more piece of the puzzle.

Larger studies will need to be conducted to see if there’s a clinical application of this research, but we certainly support finding new ways to communicate about emotions.

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