We often like to think that time heals all wounds— and it's probably the most common breakup advice there is. But new research shows that time doesn't always heal a broken heart, especially if your heart is physically changed by emotional trauma. And yes, that's at thing.
You may have felt the physical toll of heartbreak before — that horrible knot in the pit of your stomach, the panic. "... you have a body/mind connection," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. "Your mind is a product of your body and brain, so if your mind suffers, then the body suffers... Some symptoms of 'ex-itis' are headaches, digestive issues, irregular menstrual cycles, breakouts, and even chronic stress and T-cell issues, like inflammation and joint pain."
Sounds awful, right? But for some people, it's way worse — and emotional trauma can lead to lasting physical damage.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen followed 52 patients with "broken heart syndrome" or takotsubo cardiomyopathy and the results were published in Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography. The syndrome is a rare condition caused by intense emotional or physical stress, where the heart muscle is literally stunned, which leads to the left ventricle changing shape. So a bad breakup can genuinely f*ck with your heart. In 70 percent of cases of takotsubo syndrome they identified an emotional stressor, like the death or a partner.
The condition affects about 3,000 people in the UK every year, according to the Telegraph, and most of the sufferers are women — in fact, up to 90 percent. The misshape of the heart affects its ability to pump blood and, as things stand, there's no cure.
Although for many patients the heart's functioning seems to return to normal within four months, there is scarring that continues. "We used to think that people who suffered from takotsubo cardiomyopathy would fully recover, without medical intervention," Dr Dana Dawson, reader in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Aberdeen, who led the research, told the Telegraph. "Here we've shown that this disease has much longer lasting damaging effects on the hearts of those who suffer from it."
Luckily, most of the sufferers will have their left ventricle working within a few weeks or months. But for some, it shows just how profound the effect of an emotional shock can be on the body. Take care of yourself, people — your health is depending on it.