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Is Heartbreak A Real Thing?

Heartbreak is unfortunately a common part of the human experience, something that most of us will encounter at some point in our lives (sometimes more than once).

They say that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, but let’s add heartbreak onto that list because it will invariably happen to most people.

Heartbreak can sometimes feel as if your entire life has come crashing down around you, when your whole body aches and the emotional pain you feel is overwhelming. But is heartbreak an actual thing?

Dr Lurve gives us the lowdown. 

What is heartbreak?

Heartbreak is the experience you feel typically after a breakup, no matter how long the relationship lasted. While heartbreak after a short relationship is less likely, unfortunately when it comes to matters of the heart, we don’t have much control with how we react to a relationship breakdown. And when it comes to heartbreak after a long relationship, the feelings can be particularly intense. There’s an array of emotions that are affecting a person during a heartbreak – feelings of hurt, loss, confusion, rejection.  

So, is heartbreak a real thing from a scientific perspective?

Yes, it is! While most people just assume heartbreak is your emotions taking over, it is a medically proven phenomenon. Studies show that your brain registers the emotional pain of heartbreak in the same way as physical pain. So, your brain actually thinks you’re physically hurt – Crazy huh! That’s why many people report feeling physical pain as well as emotionally (because they really are experiencing it that way).

When you are heartbroken, your body gets flooded with stress hormones, with your brain pumping your body full of cortisol and epinephrine. The overabundance of cortisol then tells your brain to send too much blood to your muscles, causing them to tense up and as a result you’re left with swollen muscles which can cause headaches, a stiff body and a tight sensation in your chest. This emotional stress can cause the left ventricle of the heart to be temporarily paralysed, causing heart attack-like symptoms. This can culminate in chest pain, arm or shoulder pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Eeeeekkkk. 

Can you die from a broken heart?

Well, yes, but it’s extremely rare. There is actually a legitimate medical condition called ‘taktsubo cardiomyopathy’ — or heartbreak syndrome — which doctors say is essentially dying of a broken heart. When we experience heartbreak our bodies go through tremendous health issues which can have on flow health effects, often leading to cardiac consequences. This syndrome can also be temporary, so it is important to know that dying from a broken heart is extremely rare. There are ways to cope with the intense emotional and physical pain you’re feeling after a heartbreak. 

How can we cope with heartbreak?

Sometimes the pain of heartbreak can feel like it will never end. Heartbreak can render us unable to function properly – we can lose sleep, lose our appetite and just generally want to be curled up in a ball under the doona. Unfortunately, love can be as addictive as cocaine and when we abruptly stop feeding that addiction, we can experience withdrawal symptoms. This is when you need to turn to friends and loved ones to get you through.

Heartbreak is a very relatable experience – most people you know will have experienced it before – so it’s important to rely on those around you. Yes, it might be tempting to try and mend your broken heart alone but isolating yourself is not great for your mental health. Instead, confide in friends or seek the help from a professional therapist.  

Another great way to try and ease the feelings of heartbreak is by distracting yourself. Yes, you should allow yourself some time to grieve, but at a certain point you need to keep life moving on. Get back into the gym, organise a night out with the girls, go to that comedy night or go out partying and dance your troubles away.

Heartbreak can, and will, get easier. Time heals all wounds, and the beauty of life is that one day you’ll look back and be proud of yourself for getting through it. There are silver linings in every circumstance and once you’re on the other side, life will feel sunny again.  

Dr Lurve is a leading love and relationship expert. Dr Lurve specialises in helping people navigate the science and metaphysics of relationships. A modern-day cupid for individuals discovering self-love, singles ready to find love and couples ready to make love last forever, she is an authority on how to make relationships long-lasting. Follow her on Instagram @dr.lurve.

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