One of the questions that came up this week regarding relationships was this – “Is there really such thing as a broken heart?” The answer is that the heart is not broken in the literal sense, but absolutely, yes, it’s a medical condition. It often occurs after either a hard breakup or the death of a loved one. It is particularly dangerous to people over 55 and occurs more in women than in men, but symptoms can appear at any age.
Medically, it is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy (TTC) and was discovered in Japan in the 1990’s. It is often mistaken as a heart attack because of the similarity in symptoms – shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeat). Due to stress hormones there is a weakening of the left ventricle, the chamber of the heart that pumps blood out to the body. It can last up to about three months.
Just because of the common name, Broken Heart Syndrome, it should still be considered a medical emergency because it can lead to further serious complications. It needs to be checked out by a doctor. The simple idea that “you’ll just get over it” can be dangerous advice. Yes, most people go through Katherine Kubler-Ross’s stages of loss – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance – but for some the loss creates an actual medical condition. Depending on the severity, it can be treated with medication if necessary.
If you or someone close has experienced a hard breakup or the death of a loved one, the best advice is to seek out a professional with a high level of expertise in grief. Many times, a grief group is beneficial because people in the group will have experienced similar situations and can offer support. Just remember, the mirror image of grief is love. The more you’ve loved someone, the greater the pain of losing them.
In her book, Option B, Sheryl Sandberg talks about getting past the three P’s – Personal, Pervasive, and Permanent. It’s not personal, factually it is not pervasive affecting everything in your life, and it’s not permanent.
Tikkun Olam- heal the world. Leave it a better place when you leave.