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Broken Heart Syndrome - Yes, It's A Real Thing

Breaking up is hard to do. Psychological research may explain why it hurts so bad.

Love & Relationships

A 70-year-old woman with no history of a heart condition was admitted to the hospital for near collapse and chest discomfort that occurred when she was informed that her husband of 45 years had died. After careful monitoring, her scans came back normal and she was discharged. A follow-up appointment three months later was also normal. She has no memory of the entire hospitalization but continues to grieve for her husband.


It is inevitable that we'll all experience loss in our lifetime: the loss of a loved one, a family member, a painful breakup, or a beloved friend. The pain of losing someone we love is so profound that it has been studied by medical researchers for years.

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is the medical term for what is known as "Broken heart syndrome." It's associated with severe emotional or physical stress that contributes to some physical ailments felt during and after a loss. Stress cardiomyopathy, as the condition is also called, is brought on by severe emotional or psychological trauma such as the ending of a relationship, love affair, death, and even divorce. In its most extreme cases, the temporary heart muscle failure could result in death.

The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are similar to those of a heart attack. You may have difficulty breathing, chest pain, lack of concentration, and sweating. If you've experienced loss and your heart is hurting, it could mean that your brain is trying to tell you something.

Pain is our body's way of signaling that something is wrong. When you lose someone you love, your body goes through psychological and physiological distress when they leave your life. One of the highest searched terms on Google is "how to get over a breakup."

Luckily, I have a few helpful tips to help combat a broken heart.

Get your feelings out.

Sad Pauly D GIF by A Double Shot At Love With DJ Pauly D and Vinny Giphy

What typically happens when you feel a memory of your ex is that you try to forget it, deflect from it, or suppress it. Even though it seems harmless in the moment, your body can store these memories as stress and certain triggers can cause adverse effects. Instead of dismissing them, try expressing how you feel. This way, you externalize what's bothering you and move it from the inside, out.

Recognize your triggers.

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Emotional triggers are anything that spark a negative response from you regardless of your current mood. Common triggers can include a song on the radio, seeing their name somewhere such as a file in your office or on social media, seeing their car, or a certain smell such as his cologne.

It's important to know what triggers you because these reminders are what cause you to act impulsively like going down the rabbit hole of their social media or the new person they're dating, sending a long text message that you literally have to convince yourself to send AGAINST your better judgment or even driving by their house or places you know they frequent.

Find a support system.

Hugs GIF by Pitch on FOX Giphy

Breakups are hard and some days it hurts so bad that it's a feat just to get out of bed, let alone put on a brave face for the world, and this is exactly why you need support. A network of friends, even if they're people you've never met, can be a source of encouragement where you are free to express your true feelings, no matter how bad it gets. Oftentimes, our instinct is to retreat in solitude, but having an outlet with like-minded individuals can be helpful.

Ultimately, you must decide whether to work things out on your own or to seek the help of a professional. Either way, finding a strategy to help you cope with the loss of your relationship is the first step to getting over a broken heart.

Featured image by Getty Images

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