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Broken Heart Syndrome: Can a Heart Actually Break or Is It Drama?

We’ve all heard the line “they died of a broken heart,” but is broken heart syndrome actually a thing or just a myth of the overdramatic?

Broken Heart Syndrome

When your heart is broken, nothing in your heart is right. You can’t eat, sleep, or think straight. Your mood is extremely low, and you have no hope for the future. All you want to do is hide away and cry. Is that what broken heart syndrome is or is there more to it?

However, there is a difference between feeling heartbroken and suffering from broken heart syndrome. It might sound exactly the same, and in some ways, it might feel similar. In fact, the two are distinct. Of course, you might not think that broken heart syndrome is an actual thing. Is it really possible to have a medical issue as a result of a situation in your life?

Well, it turns out that yes, it is. Heartbreak is depicted on the big screen constantly. If you’ve ever really had your heart broken, you know that it’s not something to be used for entertainment purposes. So, let’s take a closer look at broken heart syndrome and work out what it really is. 

[Read: The 23 facts about love *good and bad* that will blow your mind]

What is broken heart syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is a condition triggered when someone goes through a stressful and deeply emotional time in their life. The good news is that it’s temporary. But it doesn’t mean it’s any less painful or distressing while it’s going on. 

The condition is also known medically as stress cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, or you might hear it called takotsubo cardiomyopathy too. They’re all basically one and the same. These syndromes can also be brought on by other situations in life, such as being sick for a period of time or having gone through a major surgery. 

[Read: What is FOMO? How to understand it and overcome the stress it creates in life]

Put simply, stress has a very serious effect on the mind and the body. When you’re experiencing a heartbreak of sorts, whether it’s a partner who has left you, someone who’s cheated on you, the death of someone close to you, or another situation which causes you a lot of emotional stress, it’s bound to take its toll on you physically and emotionally. 

Broken heart syndrome is characterized by feeling low *the background behind developing the condition*, having gone through, or going through, a very stressful time but also noticing chest pain and other heart-related symptoms that occur very suddenly. Of course, any type of chest pain needs to be checked out stat, and that’s why so many people end up in hospital as a result of broken heart syndrome. Despite their pain, they’re relieved to hear that they haven’t actually had a heart attack. 

However, that doesn’t mean that broken heart syndrome doesn’t actually cause physical symptoms, because it does. The condition affects a certain section of the heart, but the rest of the continues to function normally. This is a good thing because it means the condition is temporary, reversible, and won’t actually cause you a lot of actual harm, despite how it feels. 

[Read: How to mend a broken heart and find happiness in life again]

During the onset of the condition the heart’s rhythm is disrupted, so your heartbeat pattern will change. In addition, the lower part of one particular section of your heart will become a little larger. This causes your heart to beat more strongly *contract* in other areas. This all sounds very worrying, for sure, but again, for most people this is a reversible and temporary deal. 

The other good news *there is some, amongst the gloom*! Broken heart syndrome often sorts itself out in a short period of time, with stress reducing measures, and in some cases, treatment for the heart itself. Many people ask why your heart hurts when you’re sad or they ask, ‘can a broken heart really hurt?’ It can hurt, yes. And it’s all down to broken heart syndrome. 

[Read: 32 weird, true psychological facts about love no one seems to know]

What does broken heart syndrome feel like?

It’s worth pointing out that not every single person who is heartbroken will experience broken heart syndrome. A lot of the things you’re experiencing when you’re upset about something is stress-induced. However, when that stress is extreme, broken heart syndrome can occur. 

So, what does it feel like? Remember that every single person is different, but it tends to feel a little like a panic attack but not quite as extreme. It’s a sense of pain, or heaviness, in the chest and difficulty in taking a deep breath. The chest pain is often what causes most people to seek out medical help, and rightly so. You should never take any risks when it comes to heart health. 

The other question to address related to broken heart syndrome is ‘can you die from a broken heart’? It’s rare, but in theory, yes you can. Broken heart syndrome is often mild and doesn’t cause lasting problems. However, when extreme, it can be fatal. This is all down to stress. 

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For someone going through a heartbreak of sorts, broken heart syndrome often comes, and then goes. However, for someone unable to deal with the pain of the heartbreak and is under extreme stress not only from the heartbreak but from associated elements, the stress can build up to the point where it affects heart function and could, in theory, lead to heart failure. 

So, while rare to die of a broken heart, it’s certainly not impossible. You can lay the blame at the door of stress. 

Signs and symptoms of broken heart syndrome

When someone is broken hearted, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re going to develop broken heart syndrome and require treatment. However, if you’re going through a particularly emotional and stressful time, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms of broken heart syndrome so that you can reach out for help if needed. 

[Read: How to find your happiness from within yourself]

The symptoms of the condition are not only mental and emotional, but also physical. Let’s take a look at some of the most common signs associated with the syndrome. 

1. Chest pain that comes on suddenly

Chest pain is known medically as angina. This is the most common symptom that people with broken heart syndrome experience, and usually why they reach out for help. 

2. Shortness of breath

Another very common symptom of broken heart syndrome is feeling short of breath. This could be that you can’t catch your breath or that you can’t take a deep breath. You really want to/feel you need to. Shallow breathing is another common feature. 

3. Blood pressure on the low side

You may not be aware of your blood pressure being low but the main symptoms are weakness, dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision. The reduction in your blood pressure is because of the stress and pressure being placed on the heart and the fact that your heart is being affected. 

4. An irregular heartbeat

Known as arrhythmia, your heartbeat pattern will change. It’s possible that you will become of aware of it. In some cases, this can often be confused with a panic attack, alongside other symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Because broken heart syndrome affects one particular part of the heart, it causes a stronger contraction *heartbeat* in other parts. 

5. Clinical weakening of a section of your heart

You won’t be aware of this, but if you go into hospital, your doctor will do tests and discover this particular sign. This is one of the most common pointers towards broken heart syndrome. The left ventricle is often weakened *often temporarily* as a result of the extreme stress. It will show up on scans and tests. [Read: How to take care of yourself and avoid falling apart]

6. Fluid accumulating in the lungs

In some cases *usually quite severe*, someone with broken heart syndrome will have fluid backup and appear in the lungs. This sign is only noticed clinically, i.e. it’s not something you’ll be aware of yourself in how you feel. 

Broken heart syndrome is actually quite a medical *and worrying* deal when you break it down and look at how it can affect you physically. We focus so much on the emotional and mental pain of a heartbreak but when stress accumulates, it manifests in physical ways. Ways which can often put a huge amount of pressure on vital organs. Heart health is something we all need to be super-aware of. If you are struggling with an emotional and stressful situation currently and you notice any of the symptoms above, seek out help immediately. 

[Read: Can you die from a broken heart? 15 unexpected answers you need to know now!]

Broken heart syndrome is a real thing. While it’s rare to actually die of a broken heart, the pain is real in both an emotional and physical way.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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