Have you recently gone through a breakup and feel your heart tightening? Aching? Broken? What if we told you that reality is not far from this! The physical pain you are experiencing could have a medical explanation.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as “broken heart syndrome,” is a temporary heart condition caused by intense emotional stress or physical exertion.
A study by the Stanford University School of Medicine in the USA found that people in love have extremely high levels of dopamine in the brain, which is responsible for their good mood. However, as it turns out, dopamine and the pleasurable feeling of reward it induces also have consequences on how we experience pain.
“About 90% of patients are women. Perhaps women are more emotional and susceptible to Takotsubo syndrome,” explains Dr. Jelena Ghadri, a specialist in cardiology.
Broken heart syndrome often occurs after a significant physical or emotional event. For example, an acute illness (such as an asthma attack or a COVID-19 infection), a major surgical procedure, or a broken bone can lead to broken heart syndrome. Anything that triggers a strong emotional response, such as a death or a breakup, can cause this condition.
The limbic system of the human brain, in individuals with broken heart syndrome, has low connectivity levels, emphasizes Ghadri. “It seems they have difficulty controlling the normal response to extreme stress or deep emotional pain.”
Most patients recover within a few days or weeks, but a small number of cases have even been linked to death.
“One day we will find a cure for this,” Ghadri estimates.