How to know you’re suffering from broken heart syndrome after a breakup

The end of a relationship can feel as though your world has turned upside down.

What it means to have broken heart syndrome [Freepik]

The emotional turmoil that follows a breakup is described in terms of heartache, but can a broken heart turn into something more physically tangible?

Broken Heart Syndrome (BHS) is a condition that mimics the symptoms of a heart attack and is precipitated by intense emotional stress.

Broken Heart Syndrome, medically referred to as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, occurs when sudden, extreme emotional stress leads to severe heart muscle weakness. While it's most commonly triggered by the loss of a loved one, breakups can also provoke this condition, spotlighting the profound impact emotional distress can have on our physical well-being.


The symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome can closely mimic those of a heart attack, making it crucial to distinguish between the two for appropriate treatment. Key signs include:

  • Chest pain: A sudden, sharp pain in the chest is the most common symptom, prompting many sufferers to believe they're experiencing a heart attack.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or feeling like you can’t get enough air can also accompany the syndrome.
  • Weakness: A general feeling of weakness or fatigue without exertion.
  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeats or palpitations may occur.
  • Fainting: In some cases, the emotional distress can lead to fainting or near-fainting spells.

The exact cause of Broken Heart Syndrome remains somewhat of a mystery, though it’s believed to involve a surge of stress hormones, like adrenaline, that temporarily “stun” the heart. This stunning leads to changes in the heart muscle cells or coronary blood vessels, preventing the left ventricle from contracting effectively.


Diagnosing Broken Heart Syndrome requires a careful evaluation by a healthcare professional. Diagnosis typically involves:

  • EKG/ECG (electrocardiogram): To check for irregular heart patterns.
  • Blood tests: To detect heart damage indicators.
  • Echocardiogram: To observe the heart’s motion and its pumping function.
  • Coronary angiogram: To ensure the heart's arteries are not blocked.

The good news is that Broken Heart Syndrome is typically reversible, with most patients making a full recovery within weeks. Treatment often focuses on relieving symptoms and may include medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, or diuretics to reduce the heart’s workload and alleviate stress on the heart muscle.


While the emotional pain of a breakup can indeed feel overwhelming, Broken Heart Syndrome involves distinct physical symptoms indicative of acute heart distress. If you experience any physical symptoms following a significant emotional upheaval, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately to rule out heart-related conditions.

In the wake of a breakup, taking steps to manage your emotional health is key to preventing stress-related health issues. Consider:

  • Seeking support: Talking to friends, family, or a therapist can provide comfort and perspective.
  • Practising self-care: Engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or pursuing hobbies.
  • Allowing grief: Permit yourself to feel and express your emotions in healthy ways.

The heartache of lost love can feel insurmountable, but understanding the potential for physical manifestations of our grief can empower us to seek the care we need, both emotionally and physically.

This content was created with the help of an AI model and verified by the writer.


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