Pretty much everyone at some point has experienced a broken heart. This can be caused by a large variety of situations, but the end consequence is the same. Whether there is a discovery of infidelity, a partner unexpectedly breaks-up or asks for divorce or simply say they don’t love you any more, the result is much the same: feelings of rejection and a real physical ache that goes beyond the emotions. However, if it is painful enough to feel like a heart attack, do not dismiss because the reaction may be broken heart syndrome or stress-induced cardiomyopathy. Following is a discussion of this very real condition.
Symptoms of broken heart syndrome
The good news? The condition is temporary and it’s unlikely that you’re about to die. You probably aren’t having a heart attack. You’re most likely suffering from the consequences of an emotional ‘blow to the head’.
However, you’re still going to have to have it checked out pretty quickly! People have died from takotsubo cardiomyopathy (another word for the same condition). You may even have been suffering from a pre-existing heart disease, perhaps without even being aware of it.
Your doctor will first of all do a battery of tests – he or she will want to be sure that you’re not suffering from a heart attack.
Your heart’s electrical impulses will be recorded and monitored (EEG) and your blood will also be tested for anything that might point to a more severe heart disease.
Why is it a physical reaction?
When you’ve suddenly lost someone close to your heart, it can feel like part of you has died. No wonder than that your body responds with ‘weakness’.
Here are the symptoms
- severe pain in your chest – a physical translation of the emotional stab in the chest
- heart pounding and/or irregular beating
- feeling as if you can’t get enough air when you breathe
- and unsurprisingly: fear you’re about to die
The utter unexpectedness and total stress of what you’ve heard, witnessed or what’s suddenly happened has caused your body to be flooded with stress hormones.
And the result?
Your heartbeat is completely out of kilter – one part is weakened and swollen with blood which the rest of the heart can’t efficiently pump away.
The emotional fall-out from a sudden loss
I so know how desperately your heart aches. Maybe you even feel like there’s a deep, raw scream locked inside your chest.
Feelings and emotions
When you have a broken heart, it’s normal to feel any (or all) of the following:
- shock – it can’t be true, you can barely speak, your mind is racing… it’s as if you’re living in a dream – surely you must be about to wake up. You may be feeling weak, faint, ‘drunk’, swamped and totally unable to cope
- sadness or a deeper sorrow for the losses (there are often many)
- confusion and simply not being able to comprehend what’s happened
- longing for things to go back to how they were before, for the person to love you again, for him or her to come back and for it all to have been a mistake or a bad dream
- anger with the apparent injustice of it all, for what he or she did, for abandoning you, for being selfish
- emptiness – not being able to feel anything at all; everything’s blank – all you can do is stare into space, perhaps even wishing you could go to sleep and never wake up, or wake up having ‘just’ had a nightmare
Our achy breaky hearts are resilient. In the wise words of Oscar Wilde “The heart was meant to be broken.” However, if it you suspect you have heart break syndrome it might be a real physical condition you should have looked after. The following video looks at the science of why we feel heartbreak in the first place.