Two Takes on Depression

Treating the very condition you live with––A clinician's dual perspective

Broken Heart Syndrome: It's Real and It's Rough

Healing the heartache of love.

Valentine's Day is not always a candy-coated day of love and romance. For many who've lost a loved one, suffered a break up or are on the brink of separation or divorce, this day is anything but sweet. Learning about Broken Heart Syndrome can help you heal from your love trauma and make it through emotional calendar events like this.

Facts about Broken Heart Syndrome

  • Profound emotional sadness doesn't just weigh heavy on your mind. It significantly impacts your body.
  • The depths of being heart-broken lowers your immune system, increases blood pressure and heart rate and causes significant muscle weakness, just to name a few.
  • Stress from heartbreak grief can flood the body with hormones, specifically Cortisol, which causes that heavy-achy-feeling you get in your chest area.
  • The heartache that comes from lost love can increase the likelihood of a heart attack. In fact, a recent study showed that a person who has a tendency to be depressed and has recently suffered a love trauma was 5 times more likely to die than a person with depression alone or a heart condition alone.
  • The actual medical term for this deeply emotional mind/body experience is called Stress Cardiomyopathy also known asTakotsubo Cardiomyopathy. The colloquial term: A broken heart.
  • Women are ten times more likely to suffer from Broken Heart Syndrome than men.


Tips for preventing "Broken Heart Syndrome"

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  • Take control. Prepare yourself for the holiday crush that comes from television, radio, online and in print. Limit your exposure to such things if the overblown seasonal attention becomes too much.
  • Take stock in knowing that you're not alone in feeling lonely, letdown or unhappy during this time. Many are quietly suffering through just like you.
  • Don't hold in your emotional pain. Studies show that expressing emotions greatly reduces the body's stress response.
  • Don't put a time limit on your grief. And don't let others set one for you either. Your healing time for this love trauma is uniquely yours.
  • Make sure you tend to your physical needs. Softness, warmth and touch can be healing. Feed your other senses too - music, scents, beauty - don't forget to taste the world.
  • Don't ignore chronic aches or pains. Check in with your physician to make sure that you're medically fit.
  • Make sure you eat well, choosing healthy foods to keep you nourished during difficult times.
  • Keep a routine sleep schedule. If you require medication to help you with sleeping, or to regulate moods or for cardiac management, don't feel ashamed. You're going through a significantly stressful time.
  • A broken heart leaves many people feeling stunned and stuck. Move. Get out of bed. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Feel the sun on your face.
  • If you feel fragile, limit your exposure to emotionally driven holiday events. That doesn't mean you should avoid people completely. Decide what social connections will give you support, and which ones may be too taxing.
  • Don't forget your spiritual side. Prayer, even meditation, has been shown to comfort a broken heart.
  • Above all, remember: A broken heart doesn't make you unlovable. At this moment in time, you are healing. But remind yourself to be open when love presents itself again.



References 

Behrens, C.B . et. al. (2010). Major depression as a potential trigger for Takitsubo Cardiomyopathy.International Journal of Cardiology, 15;140(2):40-42.

Bybee, K.A. & Prasaad, A. (2008). Stress related cardiomyopathy syndromes. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,118:397-409.

 

 

Dr. Deborah Serani is the author of Living with Depression" by Rowman and Littlefield.


 

 

 

Deborah Serani, Psy.D., is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who lives with depression and specializes in its diagnosis and treatment.

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