What Does a Broken Heart Feel Like?

Reviewed on 1/20/2021

Falling in love marinates our brain in “feel good” chemicals of its own making.
Falling in love marinates our brain in “feel good” chemicals of its own making.

Falling in love marinates our brain in “feel good” chemicals of its own making. After a breakup or the death of a loved one, the brain stops producing these chemicals, and the body literally suffers from withdrawal of these feel-good hormones. Therefore, a broken heart feels so difficult and painful to deal with. The person often withdraws in their shell and is pushed into depression.

A person with a broken heart often has episodes of sobbing, rage, and despair. They may not eat or sleep for days and may also neglect their personal hygiene. A few may repress their feelings so that they do not have to face the pain of the loss, which may cause panic, anxiety, and depression a few months later. Some people who slip into addictions and rebound relationships to deal with a broken heart.

A broken heart often causes the body to secrete high levels of stress hormones and may even result in electrocardiogram (ECG) changes, giving the feeling of having a heart attack. Luckily, in most cases, these changes are temporary.

A broken heart can lead a condition to what doctors call as “stress-induced cardiomyopathy” or “takotsubo myopathy.” The condition temporarily enlarges a part of your heart.

What are the signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a diagnosis made by doctors. It resembles a heart attack in terms of its signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms can begin within minutes or even hours after the distressing event. They include:

What causes broken heart syndrome?

Emotions or physical reactions known as emotional stressors and physical stressors cause broken heart syndrome.

Emotional stressors include:

Physical stressors include:

Examples of situations that are most commonly found in patients with broken heart syndrome include:

  • Learning of the death of a loved one
  • Bad financial news
  • Legal problems
  • Natural disasters (such as floods and earthquakes)
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Exacerbation of a chronic medical illness
  • Newly diagnosed, significant medical condition
  • Surgery
  • Intensive care unit (ICU) stay
  • Use of or withdrawal from illegal drugs

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How to manage a broken heart?

Most often, broken heart syndrome appears suddenly and resolves quickly. However, it advisable to seek urgent medical care if you feel chest pain or difficulty breathing after stressful events.

After the doctor rules out the possibility of a heart attack, they will give medicines to manage your blood pressure. These may be the ones that directly reduce your blood pressure along with some anti-anxiety or sedative (sleep-inducing) medications.

You may seek counselling to cope up with the stress that caused you a broken heart at the first instance.

A broken heart can tremendously affect your mental health. If things are not done to tackle the stress caused by grief, it can eventually land you into actual heart problems. Here are a few things that you can try to heal your broken heart:

  • Bounce back and learn to stay happy: Find ways that make you happy. These can be anything. Find your calling. Follow your hobby—singing, dancing, painting, gardening, or anything that you think gives you joy.
  • Do physical activities regularly: Physical activities such as exercises and yoga work wonders in lifting your mood. Make an exercise routine and stick to it. Join a yoga class.
  • Connect with the nature: Taking long walks in the parks and going on a short trip are proven stressbusters.
  • Find a support system: Stay connected with people who make you feel good about yourself. You can even find support groups online that have been through the same phase as you. Sharing each other’s experiences in dealing with difficult situations can help you tide over your loss smoothly.

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References
Takotsubo (Stress) Cardiomyopathy (Broken Heart Syndrome). Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1513631-overview

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