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  • Broken Heart

    Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

    With Valentines Day safely behind us now, I thought it fit to discuss what a broken heart can look and feel like. February being the unofficial “Love month”, can feel more like a month of dread for some. Depending where you are on the relationship spectrum, the outlook will be different. They say that breaking up is hard to do. Well, it is. It’s definitely one of the hardest emotional experiences, one will go through. Have you ever wondered what the body actually goes through during a heartbreak? The physical symptoms are usually obvious to all, but the psychological symptoms are also very real and will last much longer than the physical ones. Did you know that one can die from a broken heart? Broken hearts are real and the pain that it inflicts is also very real. In this two part blog series, I will explore various aspects of a broken heart. This blog will focus on the physiological and psychological aspects of a broken heart.

    What is a broken heart

    A “broken heart” is the metaphor or term that is used to describe the intense emotions for what is also known as “heart break”, or “heartache”. This intense emotion can lead to something called ” broken heart syndrome” which can cause physical damage to one’s heart. Broken heart syndrome is described as physical pain in the heart or chest area, due to the emotional stress caused by a traumatic breakup or sudden death of a loved one. This can resemble a heart attack.

    Research indicates that this temporary condition causes the abnormal pumping of blood to one area of the heart. Any negative effects caused by “broken heart syndrome” is treatable and should be reversible within days or weeks. The emotional pain that is associated with a “broken heart” is believed to be part of our survival instincts. Further research done on this topic shows that various areas of the brain undergoes physical chemical changes during episodes of a broken heart.


    During a break up one may feel like they are going to die and the pain will last forever. The good news is that the pain does not last forever, and one will and does bounce back, off course in due time. There really is no true time frame as to when the pain will end and when one may begin to feel “normal” again. This will be up to the individual and how they cope with

    Here is a list of some common physical symptoms that one may experience during a breakup.

    • Hysterical and uncontrollably crying.
    • Loss of appetite or over eating (one either losses weight during this time, or gains weight)
    • Insomnia or hyper-somnia (one usually endorse lots of sleep or sleepless nights)
    • Unable to function normally/not focused (we may sit and just stare into space)
    • Nausea
    • Heart palpitations. One may feel like their heart is going to come out of their chest (if you have ever endorsed an anxiety attack this will feel similar)
    • Headaches
    • Shortness of breath
    • Restlessness
    • Exhaustion or fatigue


    These are the symptoms that I’m most concerned about as a therapist, because they will last much longer than the physical ones. As if the physical pain isn’t bad enough the psychological pain can go on for months or even years after a break up. The following list is composed of some of the common psychological symptoms that individuals may endorse during a break up.

    • Ruminating and uncontrollably continuous thoughts about the break up are usually components of grief. The individual usually cannot stop talking about the relationship.
    • Feelings of rejection which can lead to shame and sometimes guilt. No one wants to be the person that someone else dumped.
    • Feelings of being unworthy, unacceptable, even disposable can lead to a lowered sense of self-esteem. These feelings are extremely painful.
    • Doubting yourself and your self-worth, can also lead to a lowered self esteem.
    • Isolating one’s self. The individual may vow that they will never again allow themselves, to be this vulnerable. They may shut down and shut others out for a very long time.
    • Depression is common especially when one blames themselves for the break up. One may say things like why didn’t I do this, or do that differently, they may beat up on their self for not knowing any better, or not doing something sooner.
    • May endorse trust issues in future relationships.
    • Separation anxiety can occur, especially if the couple has been together for a long period of time.
    • Anxiety about life in general and especially about future relationships
    • Psychological trauma can occur in severe cases which can leave an impact on how one would proceed thereafter in future relationships. This emotional trauma, may lead to abandonment or attachment issues in the future relationships.
    • Symptoms of PTSD can occur in very extreme cases, especially in some abusive relationship.

    Did you know that for many individuals, their first heart break took place in early childhood? Just think about this for a second. For those individuals who grew up without a father or mother, (those who choose not to partake in the child’s life), or a parent who was in and out of that child’s life, may have experienced heart break before. That parent/guardian may have made and broken numerous promises during that child’s life. Those individuals have been exposed too and have experienced many broken hearts in their younger years. Those were their first heart breaks, although it may have not been called that.

    The repercussions of these encounters do show up in adulthood and it’s also a factor as to why so many individuals have problems in their relationships later on in their lives, or even further, they may have what is known as having “daddy/mommy issues”.

    How you cope with a heartbreak is determined by how you have been raised or nurtured. The pain will take time to heal, and it cannot be avoided. But once you are able to get out of that state of mind, how you move on from there, will be very critical to your future relationships, especially if this was your first heartbreak. You will most likely never forget the pain of a broken heart.

    Tips to help heal a Broken Heart

    • Give yourself time to heal. There is no rush. Accept and deal with your pain, your fears, and your heart break on your own terms and in your own time. Your have just experienced a traumatic event and it will take time to heal. Don’t let others tell you to “get over it”. Everyone deals with pain differently.
    • Stop blaming yourself for the breakup, especially if you know you that you did not do anything wrong. If the other person wanted to be with you, they would. You cannot make or force someone else to be with you. That’s their choice. You only have control over yourself.
    • View the relationship as an outsider. There is a saying that love is blind, it’s a very true saying.p for the most part. Now that you have had some time to really think about the relationship, because it’s all you are thinking about anyway. Can you stand back and see what has gone wrong or has been going wrong in the relationship over time. What were the “red flags” that you missed of failed to acknowledged. You have to be very honest with yourself.
    • Learn from the experience. There are always lessons to be learned from every experience that we go through in life and heart breaks are no exception. Ask yourself what am I to learn from this?
    • Work on yourself. This is a good time to seek professional, pastoral any other kind of help that you can, especially if this has been a pattern for you in the past. What’s possibly happened here may be termed as ” Relationship Insanity”. What this means is that you may have been doing the same things in your relationships, while expecting different results. This clearly shows a pattern of unhealthy behavior.

    Tips on avoiding a Broken Heart

    This can once again go back to the saying ” love is blind”. Think about a time when you saw a family member, or a friend in a relationship that you knew was not good for them, but they couldn’t see it for themselves. Regardless of what you told that individual about their relationship, they always seemed to have an answer or excuse as to why they continue to stay it.

    Listen to what your partner is saying. This is very important because some individuals tend to miss this step quite often. If your partner tells you he/she doesn’t want to be in a serious relationship, get married, have children etc, please take what they are saying to heart. They are telling you very clearly what they want and don’t want. Some individuals may tend to believe that they can change the other person’s mind, if he/she just hangs out with them long enough. If what he/she is saying does not fit into your value system or priorities, please take note and don’t ignore it.

    Look for and acknowledge the “Red Flags”. Do not ignore these warning signs. Most individuals already know what these red flags are, but continue to make excuses for it, or even deny these clear warning signs in their relationship. Listen to your instincts and what it’s telling you. Please do not ignore your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right to you, chances are it isn’t.

    Don’t be afraid to walk away. Many of us are in relationships that are long past their overdue date, but we are hanging in there until he/she leaves. You may be trying your best to be the perfect partner and all of your efforts still seem to be in vain. What you are actually doing, in staying in a “relationship that is expired? It may be time to move on.

    Keep your word and stay true to yourself. Once you have put your word out there, you have to stick to it. Once you go back on your word, you have ultimately sabotaged yourself. Once your partner knows that your words mean absolutely nothing, it will be very hard for you to be taken seriously again. The other person can pretty much do whatever they want now, because you have just proven to them, that you cannot keep your word. Mean what you say and say what you mean.

    Do not give up your power. You should not compromise your values or priorities for anyone. Do not put everything aside to be with someone. Don’t be needy, and totally dependent on someone else to be your all, or your everything. It shouldn’t be all about him/her. Always have things that are yours only. Don’t allow yourself to have nothing, outside of your relationship.

    These are just a few tips to help you move along, as you cope with a broken heart. Your goal would be to avoid future heart breaks, but since none of us live in a bubble, keep in mind that a broken can happen again. Hopefully you will be better equipped to handle it, if and when it does.