When you get your heart broken, the pain isn’t just emotional, it’s often physical. The end of a long-term relationship with someone you loved deeply and didn’t want to lose can feel like it’s killing you, but can it actually? Apparently yes, but luckily it’s not all that common.
- Yes, broken heart syndrome is a real condition. The technical term is takotusubo cardiomyopathy and yes, it actually exists. The name is derived from the term “octopus trap,” which is sort of poetic in a sense. It’s reversible and most people that experience it don’t actually end up dying, but it can feel a lot like having a heart attack. In fact, many of the symptoms are similar.
- It’s a little more serious than just dying from a breakup. The few cases of individuals who’ve died from a broken heart haven’t passed away just because they broke up with their partners. Yes, breakups can be sad and the stress of them could lead to more serious health conditions, but the fatalities have all been related to the loss of a partner through death.
- There isn’t really one common denominator. There seem to be a lot of factors that can cause this condition rather than one common trigger in all cases. Sometimes it’s as simple as experiencing an extreme change from a person’s established norm. If a child dies before a parent, as was the case between Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds for instance, that isn’t considered standard. Children usually survive their parents, so when the dynamic is thrown off, it can cause added stress which can result in a more significant trauma. That’s just one example, of course.
- Even if it feels like you’re having a heart attack, you’re likely not. There may be chest pains involved, shortness of breath, and increased blood pressure in broken heart syndrome, but it’s not the same as a heart attack. Emotional stress can weaken the heart’s pumping valve but it’s less severe than a clot or valve blockage that could result in an actual heart attack. Again, broken heart syndrome is reversible in the majority of cases if taken care of. If that’s the case, the heart can return to normal within a few weeks.
- Most of the related causes are common things people deal with. Some other stressors that can be related to takotsubo cardiomyopathy are domestic violence, serious illness or surgery, public speaking, receiving bad news, car or other accident, financial loss, fierce argument or intense fear. We’ve probably all experienced most of these in our lifetimes, though not necessarily to the degree that would cause this kind of suffering. Still, it’s easy to see how powerful anxiety and sadness can be in our physical health.
- It primarily affects women, and typically older ones. Since estrogen decreases in women after menopause, they’re at higher risk for death as a result of broken heart syndrome. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy causes the heart’s left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, to become weak, and without as much estrogen, it could be even riskier.
- We’re designed to co-exist—it’s in our psychology. Humans by nature are social creatures and it’s in our genetics to seek companionship for life. We build relationships and when those relationships are lost, it can cause stress that we may not exactly be prepared to cope with. Even if you aren’t losing someone completely, the role they filled in your life leaves a hole that can be hard to heal.
- Positive feelings can cause the same condition. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (also known as TTS) can be triggered by positive emotional events as well. Despite their differences, happy and sad life events can cause similar types of stress and therefore similar symptoms. This type of ailment is known as happy heart syndrome. It sounds a lot better, sure, but is still something that can cause health issues.
- The good thing to remember is that this too shall pass.In pretty much all cases, these symptoms don’t last forever. As time passes and you become more accustomed to life without the person you’ve lost, you WILL rebound and slowly but surely, the pain will fade.