Everyone experiences heartbreak differently, but there are some symptoms that people tend to have in common: depression, lethargy, and anxiety to name a few. In fact, some instances of heartbreak can be so intense that it leads to a health condition called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, which is normally triggered by unexpected extreme emotional or physical stress. The sudden release of stress hormones can shock the heart into exhibiting heart failure-like symptoms such as intense chest pain.
And while typically associated with romance, a broken heart can also apply to other kinds of losses such as the death of a family member and losing a job. There are many ways to break your heart, and knowing when to seek help is important if you're struggling day-to-day.
What heartbreak does to you
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is rare, but heartbreak, in general, can still be debilitating enough to stop people from effectively going about their daily lives. It can cause numbness and apathy, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort, as it’s your brain’s way of protecting you from experiencing the full effect of the emotional pain. You may also experience depression-like symptoms, including sleeping difficulties, anxiety, loss of interest in daily activities, and concentration problems.
Rumination and intrusive thoughts are also common for those experiencing heartbreak. This is when you obsessively think about your breakup, wondering what went wrong and why it ended. Thoughts of not having been good enough can lower your self-esteem and worsen your mental health. When your heartbreak becomes a chronic hurdle to your daily life, then you may need to seek help. If you're having trouble going to work or school or completing basic tasks that you need to get done, those are all important signs to notice.
What to do if you're heartbroken
While there’s no foolproof way of avoiding heartbreak, you can get yourself through the process in a healthy way. Prioritizing self-care will help you recover from the stress a broken heart can bring. For one, you should learn to be aware of your coping mechanisms to gauge if they’re healthy or not, watch out for common signs like a lack of appetite or urge to overeat. Exercise is also a good self-care habit as it produces endorphins that can combat post-breakup withdrawal symptoms.
Part of recovery is also allowing yourself to experience the feelings that come with the breakup to process the events better — a mental health specialist or therapist can help guide you through this process. These professionals are fortunately more accessible now through digital means so you can contact them more conveniently. They also have a better understanding of human behavior, so that they can help you come up with better coping mechanisms. Additionally, their knowledge in social psychology can be used to help you build stronger relationships with your friends and family to further support your recovery. You’ll be able to regain self-esteem as you get used to the feeling of being single again since you’ll realize again that you’re already good enough as you are.
You can also look for more support through healing classes with curriculums made especially to help you recover, such as post-breakup nutrition, letting go of a relationship (and an ex), and even dealing with heartbreak due to infidelity or divorce.
Heartbreak is one of the hardest things we experience, no doubt, and it has a major impact on how we feel emotionally and physically. What’s important is that you don’t rush your recovery and there’s no shame in reaching out if you need help.