Can a breakup actually break your heart?

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The phrase “I’m broken hearted” may be more than just an expression. Tako-tsubo Cardiomyopathy, also known as Broken Heart Syndrome, is a heart condition that is thought to be caused by the loss of a loved one. This could be bereavement, a breakup or a significant emotional experience.  How? Well, Scientists believe that when a person goes through a “heartbreak”, the heart muscle suddenly weakens and the left ventricle in the heart chamber changes shape and enlarges. This can cause chest pains or even a heart attack. Reports have even found that happy events like a wedding or winning the lottery can also trigger the syndrome. Another plausible explanation for this condition is stress and research shows that women are more likely to experience this condition.

So what links emotional pain to physical symptoms?

A study carried out by Aron et al., (2005) observed the emotional systems associated with the early stages of love.  The researchers carried out the experiment via functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and asked the male and female participants to look at photographs of their “loved ones”. The team found an increase in dopamine-rich areas associated with mammalian reward and motivation. These areas of the brain are the right ventral tegmental area , the right posterodorsal body and medial caudate nucleus. This interested the researchers because this forebrain activity is similar to the activity found in those who suffer from cocaine addiction. Therefore “romantic rejection” is essentially the same as overcoming an addiction.

In 2011, Kross et al looked further into social rejection and found that physical pain shares the same somatosensory network. This is due to the fact that when a person is going through a break up they are unable to receive the same rewards that they received within the relationship.

If you want to look at the scientific papers and the  research there are links below?

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Krystal Douglas

Krystal Douglas is a Chemistry and Biology graduate who enjoys blogging in her spare time.

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