The Science of a Broken Heart

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Can a Broken Heart Cause Physical Pain?

Most people have experienced emotional heartbreak. What is often break-up pain or pain from the death of a loved one can leave us asking, “Why does heartbreak hurt so much?” In fact, the sensation can be so intense that you may wonder, “Can a broken heart cause physical pain?” The answer to that question is that there actually is something called broken heart syndrome, or more technically, stress cardiomyopathy. So, why does heartbreak hurt so bad? It may be because you’re experiencing an actual cardiac event.

The Physical Symptoms of Heartbreak

While both men and women can experience the physical symptoms of heartbreak, feeling sick after break-up is more common in women, especially those who are middle-aged or older. Broken heart syndrome symptoms can include:

  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)
  • Heart failure

These physical effects of a broken heart typically occur suddenly after extreme emotional or physical stress. They can happen even in people who have no history of heart disease.

Broken heart syndrome can lead to cardiogenic shock in which the weakened heart can’t move enough blood to meet the body’s needs. This condition can be fatal and requires immediate treatment.

Recovering from a Heartbreak

While the exact cause of broken heart syndrome isn’t known, many experts feel it’s a response to a flood of stress hormones like adrenaline that occurs as a result of an emotional trauma. Prompt and aggressive treatment can typically prevent death or long-term heart damage. However, fully recovering from heartbreak and the resulting heart issues takes time, and each person’s recovery period is different. The emotions and body pain may resolve in days or it could take weeks. Ultimately, how to fix a broken heart differs for everyone.

Schedule an appointment with Baptist Health today if you’re experiencing physical pain related to emotional stress or heartache.