Social rejection has devastating impacts. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a significant other, or a case of bullying, we all face rejection at some point. Humans rely heavily on approval from others. The need for approval makes the consequences of rejection  real and powerful. Here is what research says happens when we feel social rejected and isolated from others.


“The world laughed at any attempts we made to exist in it without pain.” ― Cherie M. Hudson

Facts About Rejection

the_pain_is_brutal_for_these_marines_150306-m-in448-091The pain of rejection is like physical pain

Social rejection feels a lot like physical pain, according to a study from the University of Michigan. Looking at MRI’s helped researchers discover that our brains activate similarly when we feel pain or rejection.

Can rejection be treated the same as pain? Though it might not be the healthiest, or most practical option, one study indicates a broken heart can be soothed by Tylenol. That just goes to show how much alike physical pain and rejection really are.

It’s bad for your health

Rejection doesn’t stop at feeling painful. It also harms your health.

The Association for Psychological Science discussed research on the impact of rejection on physical health. Rejection can affect the immune system and sleep. Another study in Clinical Psychological Science, shows that individuals may be at higher risk for inflammation related diseases when they experience social rejection. Also, if a person allows themselves to become disconnected and isolated, it can  have an impact on a person’s life span.


Our negative feelings swell

Anxiety, depression, and anger are all side-effects of rejection. Rejection creates more rejection. This also leads to social isolation and lingering bad feelings.

“I am good at walking away. Rejection teaches you how to reject.” ― Jeanette Winterson

Research shows that rejected people see other’s as having hostile intentions. This causes them to react differently, or even with hostility, towards others. Sometimes impulse control goes down after rejection and some people lash out. They can become aggressive. This aggression re-creates the cycle of rejection. As a result, the problem gets worse.

Our thinking becomes clouded

Humans naturally need to belong. Newscience cites a research study led by Roy Baumeister of the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The study concludes that not only does rejection increase aggression, it also lowers IQ. In the study, rejected groups had a 25% IQ drop. It stands to reason that rejection harms our ability to think clearly.

Rejection damages self-esteem

Finally, the impact of rejection doesn’t stop with a single event. A study published in the Journal of Personality shows that feeling rejected makes us vulnerable to self-injury. Harmful thinking and behaviors go along with feelings of social rejection. We intentionally cause ourselves pain when we are rejected.

“If I’m going to be rejected, I’d like it to come complete with humiliation.” ― Katja Millay

The problem is, if we avoid rejection, we can’t grow and excel. Instead, we need to cope. This way we can minimize the damaging impact of rejection. Accepting others and acting with kindness can also help us to create a world with less social rejection and isolation.