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Getting Over a ‘Heartbreak’ – the ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ 

If the broken heart is not ‘mended,’ it can lead to a long-term fear of commitment. 

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‘Heartbreak’ is perhaps one of the most universally established terms for conveying distress.

We throw that word around for different situations – as a substitute for a dish gone wrong in the kitchen, by fans to emphasise the frustration when your team loses, by parents to underline the anger of disappointing results, and of course, to symbolise the emotional pain of a recently ended relationship.

In Medicine, ‘Broken heart syndrome’ refers to a form of ‘Stress Induced Cardiomyopathy’, which is accompanied by sudden, intense chest pain — the reaction to a surge of stress hormones.

It is caused by an emotionally stressful events like the death of a loved one, a break-up, rejection etc, and is often misdiagnosed as a heart attack.

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In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally, or with even more forceful contractions.

And while doctors are still researching on how to treat a broken heart syndrome, here, we are going to use the term in its more conventional sense: As an indicator of the emotional numbness following a break-up.

Now the process that your psyche goes through, following the breakdown of a relationship, is deeply personal.

How your heart ‘breaks’ would depend on the nature, duration, and strength of the relationship in question; your personality and previous experiences; your support system, as well as the cause for the break-up.

Its symptoms may vary from feeling ‘low’ to full-fledged depression.

Often, heartbreak is accompanied with self-doubt, self-reproach, tears, feeling emotionally exhausted, lack of sleep, appetite changes, etc. If the broken heart is not ‘mended,’ it can lead to a long-term fear of commitment, and inability to be involved in a healthy and satisfying relationship.
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How to Handle a Heartbreak

If the broken heart is not ‘mended,’ it can lead to a long-term fear of commitment. 
If the broken heart is not ‘mended,’ it can lead to a long-term fear of commitment, and inability to be involved in a healthy and satisfying relationship.
(Photo: The Quint)

Re-prioritise your goals: Make a list of all the things that you wanted to do and start pursuing them, or just concentrate at work. But get going!

Carry On: No matter how bleak things might seem, just going through your daily routine will help you get over some of the pain.

Smile: Even if it is just lip service

Cry if you feel like it: It helps reduce your stress and will help you vent.

Count your blessings: I know it seems difficult at the moment; but take your time and make a list of the things you are thankful for. They are the few things that matter.

Get a hobby or a pet: Both will serve as distraction, and sometimes, a bit of unconditional love can provide all the motivation you need to break the vicious circle.

Learn: Use the experience to understand yourself better and improve the chances of having a successful and fulfilling relationship in the future.

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Reach Out

Help is always available to those who ask for it; don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends, family, mentor and colleagues. They already sense that something is amiss and will probably be happy to help you get over the tough time.

Finally, remember that your pursuit of happiness is not defined by a single relationship, but rather by the ability to create a small piece of joy for yourself daily, along with all the wonderful people in your life.

(Dr.Kedar Tilwe is a Consultant Psychiatrist at Dept. of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi - A Fortis Network Hospital)

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