Tag Archives: Chest

Dumped? How To Heal The Health Effects Of A Broken Heart?

Romantic rejection can manifest in various forms of physical anguish, researchers find.

Got a stomach ache? A headache? Insomnia? Your health issues may be related to your recent romantic rejection.

When 23-year old Emmie Scott, a direct marketer in Richmond, Va., and her boyfriend/co-worker broke up and still had to endure seeing each other daily, Scott suffered a broken heart—literally. “The most uncomfortable symptom I experienced is the sensation that someone was sitting on my chest—a combination of both pain and pressure that’s left more than one of my friends commenting that my heart must actually be broken.”

Researchers now understand that romantic rejection triggers change in our brains that affect our health. Edward Smith, a Columbia University psychologist, and a team of colleagues found that intense emotional pain can activate the same neural pathways as physical pain. Seems being jilted can hurt in a primitive physical way as if you’ve been sucker-punched by a welterweight.

What’s more, that physical pain can manifest in surprising ways. Aside from chest pain, you may get hit with a kick-butt cold or flu, develop insomnia, or a range of gastro symptoms from loss of appetite to diarrhea. The precise health wallop you suffer may have to do with how your body manifests stress. Asthmatic? You could have an asthma attack. Suffer from a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis? Your skin will likely flare up. Have irritable bowel syndrome? Prepare to hit the restroom.

“While in college I found out my boyfriend (and high school sweetheart) was cheating on me. Although only 110 pounds, I dropped almost 15 and broke out with a case of shingles, which required a week of prednisone to calm,” says Christina Stoever Young, 40, producer of a historic haunted walking tour in Truckee, Calif.

Here, the top health complaints stemming from heartache:

• Complaint: Heart pressure or pain, palpitations, abnormal heart rhythms.

Why: When the stress response is triggered by a breakup or divorce, the body sends out a massive flooding of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. “Anytime your adrenaline levels are higher, you’re more vulnerable to faster heart rate, palpitations, and certain arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, as well as skipped beats, lightheadedness, feeling your chest pounding, and a fluttering feeling in your neck,” says Dr. John M. Kennedy, a Marina Del Ray cardiologist and co-author of “The 15 Minute Heart Cure: The Natural Way to Release Stress and Heal Your Heart in Just Minutes a Day.”

Women heart patients facing severe stress from marriage difficulties were found to have three times the risk of heart attack as women without such stress. Worse, there’s a syndrome that mimics heart attack called Takotsuba syndrome, or broken heart syndrome, in which an EKG, chest X-ray, and blood work all indicate a heart attack. But when a cardiologist goes inside the heart searching for the culprit blocked artery, the arteries are wide open. The stress response simulates heart attack symptoms. “A broken heart syndrome is an extreme form of what heartache can do to our bodies,” says Kennedy. While it can be lethal, the heart muscle usually recovers within six months.

What helps: Anything that relieves stress helps prevent these heart problems during relationship troubles: exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxing through breathing or visualization, even short term anti-anxiety medication.

• Complaint: Cold or flu.

Why: These same stress hormones torch your immune system leaving you vulnerable to rogue bacteria and viruses. “Normally when you’re confronted with bacteria or virus, your body will mount a defense,” says Dr. Valerie Scott, a board certified family doctor in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Post break up, however, your immune system is weakened and those defenses aren’t unable to ward off illness.

What helps: Managing your stress improves your immune system. Exercise, eat well, take a multi-vitamin, especially the B-complex vitamins, which boost immunity, rest enough and decompress with music, comedy or friends to counteract the flood of stress hormones.

• Complaint: Gastro upset (stomach pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea,).

Why: The excess cortisol shooting into your system during your break up diverts blood away from your digestive track, leaving you with GI unpleasantness–that ‘can’t eat for weeks, sour stomach, run to the bathroom feeling you get when your relationship tanks.

What helps: Try over-the-counter meds for your queasy stomach. In one study, researchers simulated rejection in the lab and found that aspirin alleviates the painful feelings triggered by being rebuffed. While it seems skeptical, it’s worth a try, as is curbing your desire to veg on the couch. Exercise prompts your brain to release uplifting endorphins that will settle your stomach. What’s more, misery loves company. “You want to surround yourself with family and friends and supportive people because it’s easy to get depressed,” says Kennedy, which may worsen symptoms. Camaraderie can stimulate a much-needed dose of missing oxytocin, a feel-contented hormone.

• Complaint: Insomnia.

Why: Sleeping patterns, not unlike eating patterns, become skewed during relationship demise. Some people want to stay in bed all day — while others can’t seem to sleep at all. Science really doesn’t understand why it happens, but it’s likely due to racing thoughts, the ‘he-said, she-said’ reenactment of the break up plays out mentally while at rest. Plus, stress hormones, still at their peak, may wreck your circadian rhythms and internal clock.

What helps: Stay active enough so your body will reach the reparative deep levels of sleep it needs, but don’t push yourself to exhaustion, which backfires. Exercise, but avoid it after 9 pm, since it could cause insomnia. Skip caffeine after 3 in the afternoon for the same reason. Turn off TV, computer and cell phone at least an hour before bed and embrace a relaxing sleep routine: low lighting, candles, and a warm bath. “Once you calm that stress response, all of these medical things resolve and get better,” says Scott.

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Depression: Recognizing The Physical Symptoms

Most of us know about the emotional symptoms of depression. But you may not know that depression can be associated with many physical symptoms, too.

In fact, many people with depression suffer from chronic pain or other physical symptoms. These include:

• Headaches.
These are fairly common in people with depression. If you already had migraine headaches, they may seem worse if you’re depressed.

• Back pain.
If you already suffer with back pain, it may be worse if you become depressed.

• Muscle aches and joint pain.
Depression can make any kind of chronic pain worse.

• Chest pain.
Obviously, it’s very important to get chest pain checked out by an expert right away. It can be a sign of serious heart problems. But depression can contribute to the discomfort associated with chest pain.

• Digestive problems.
You might feel queasy or nauseous. You might have diarrhea or become chronically constipated.

• Exhaustion and fatigue.
No matter how much you sleep, you may still feel tired or worn out. Getting out of the bed in the morning may seem very hard, even impossible.

• Sleeping problems.
Many people with depression can’t sleep well anymore. They wake up too early or can’t fall asleep when they go to bed. Others sleep much more than normal.

• Change in appetite or weight.
Some people with depression lose their appetite and lose weight. Others find they crave certain foods — like carbohydrates — and weigh more.

• Dizziness or lightheadedness.

Because these symptoms occur with many conditions, many depressed people never get help, because they don’t know that their physical symptoms might be caused by depression. A lot of doctors miss the symptoms, too.

These physical symptoms aren’t “all in your head.” Depression can cause real changes in your body. For instance, it can slow down your digestion, which can result in stomach problems.

Depression seems to be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. Some of these same chemicals play an important role in how you feel pain. So many experts think that depression can make you feel pain differently than other people.

Treating Physical Symptoms:

In some cases, treating your depression — with therapy or medicine or both — will resolve your physical symptoms.

But make sure to tell your health care provider about any physical symptoms. Don’t assume they’ll go away on their own. They may need additional treatment. For instance, your doctor may suggest an antianxiety medicine if you have insomnia. Those drugs help you relax and may allow you to sleep better.

Since pain and depression can sometimes go together, easing your pain may help with your depression.

Other treatments can also help with painful symptoms. Certain types of focused therapy — like cognitive behavioral — can teach you ways to cope better with the pain.

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Breaking Up Can Literally Break Your Heart

The word “heartbreak” is bandied about so much we often forget that physical heart pain is a side effect of high-stress events.

Along with depression and loss of appetite, physical heart pain is an actual side effect of high-stress events like the loss of loved ones. The grief from a breakup or death can be so consuming that it’s actually heart wrenching and can have serious consequences for our physical health, too.

The ‘Physical Effects’ of a ‘Broken Heart’:

Anyone who has experienced real heartbreak knows that it’s not just a melodramatic term. The aching, tight feeling that accompanies such sadness is uncomfortable, but usually not disconcerting. However, for people with broken heart syndrome, it feels scarily similar to a heart attack — in fact, most people are diagnosed after being taken to the emergency room.

Broken heart syndrome, also known as stress cardiomyopathy, is a sudden weakness in the heart muscle due to a severely stressful situation. It has the same symptoms as a heart attack — difficulty breathing, chest pain, and a drop in blood pressure — but while a heart attack permanently damages the heart, broken heart syndrome’s effects are temporary. Also, heart attacks are caused by blocked coronary arteries; people can experience stress cardiomyopathy without existing blockages. This important difference is often how doctors determine one from the other.

In 2005, researchers at John Hopkins University discovered the distinction when they studied the hearts of patients dealing with deaths of family members, car accidents, financial woes, and other anxiety triggers. They postulated that being under such stress causes the brain to release a constant stream of stress hormones like adrenaline into the blood, which makes heart vessels work too hard and reduces pumping strength. However, this is but one theory — doctors are still trying to determine exactly why adrenaline surges affect heart muscle cells the same way that heart attacks do.

The syndrome might be serious like a heart attack, but luckily it’s a temporary condition that can be cleared up in about a week with proper medical care. Mostly people just need time to recover from whatever physical or emotional event shocked their systems enough to cause cardiomyopathy. Even seemingly innocent things like surprise parties and public speaking can spark heart problems; many patients don’t have preexisting heart conditions, so it is difficult to tell who is at risk for the syndrome. For reasons still unknown, it does occur more frequently in women than men, particularly postmenopausal women.

Toxic Relationships Can Be Deadly, Too.

Suffering through a traumatic event like a breakup isn’t the only way to weaken our hearts — staying in a toxic relationship can be just as detrimental. It’s no secret that negative relationships, whether platonic or romantic, can have negative effects on our physical well-being. Emotional stress puts added pressure on our bodies, which weakens our immune systems and increases depressive episodes. In 2007, a study conducted at University College London found that people in bad relationships — characterized by a lack of support and a constant source of stress — had a 34 percent higher chance of having heart problems in the future compared to those in positive couplings.

The study followed 8,000 subjects, initially heart disease free, over a twelve-year period. At the end of the study, 589 people had developed heart disease and those who previously reported relationship strife, especially the ones who felt that talking with their companions about problems made things even worse, had a higher occurrence of the disease. We’ve always known that fighting with loved ones is a sure source of heartache, and now we know it’s a potential contributor to heart disease as well.

Our Loved Ones’ Deaths Can Lead to Our Own.

Grief over someone’s death, particularly when it’s someone as close as a mother or father, can be debilitating and excruciatingly painful. Depression and weight loss often stem from such loss, but now there’s evidence suggesting that it can even result in death. A 2008 study led by Ivan Mendoza, MD found that in 102 reported cases of sudden death, thirteen of them happened on the anniversary of the day that their parents died. Out of this group, one third of them died around the same age that their parents did. But unlike broken heart syndrome, sudden death resulting from grief occurred more among men than women in this study and the majority of cases had underlying coronary heart disease.

This isn’t the first time that grief and death have been linked. A psychiatrist named George L. Engel wrote a paper in 1971 detailing numerous cases of people who died soon after a loved one. We’ve all heard similar tales of people dying unexpectedly just a few weeks or months after their partners, as if they couldn’t imagine going on without them.

We’re inundated with the different habits we should adopt to keep our hearts in tip-top shape, like eating well and exercising, but getting out of bad relationships and dealing with loss in healthy ways aren’t usually on those lists — even though they can potentially cause physiologic harm. Perhaps as more studies like these come out, people will realize just how important it is to strive for emotional as well as physical well-being. They’re inextricably connected, even if more significance is put on one over the other. The effects of a breakup or death can be crippling and we should recognize that. Metaphorical heartbreak is painful enough as it is.

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Can A ‘Relationship Breakup’ Cause Actual Heart Damage?

A New Study Says, “YES.”

There’s a saying that no one ever died from a broken heart, but findings from a new study at Johns Hopkins (published in The New England Journal of Medicine) suggest it can do a lot more damage than you think.

The clinical research showed that some people may respond to sudden, overwhelming emotional stress such as unexpected breakup or severe grief by releasing large amounts of “catecholamines” into the blood stream, along with their breakdown products and the small proteins produced by an over-excited nervous system. These chemicals can be temporarily toxic to the heart, effectively stunning the muscle and producing symptoms similar to a typical heart attack, including chest pain, fluid in the lungs, shortness of breath and heart failure.

In other words, these broken heart syndrome (BHS) symptoms can cause a seemingly healthy heart to stop working normally–all due to the emotional stress brought on by something like an unexpected breakup. The physical symptoms of depressed patients, have experienced after a breakup or divorce include loss of appetite, inability to sleep, tightening in the chest, and nausea; while emotional problems include everything from depression to uncontrolled crying and loss of self-esteem.

Doctors estimate 1 to 2 percent of patients who are diagnosed with a heart attack in the U.S. are actually suffering broken heart syndrome. The vast majority of sufferers are “women” (studies suggest that 90 to 95 percent of patients are female).

If identified quickly and treated appropriately, BHS can resolve in a few days and leave the patient with no lasting physical damage.

Emotionally, though, the stress of a breakup may linger. Some tips on how to minimize stress and keep your body and mind in balance as you go through a breakup or divorce include:

  • Stay active and try to maintain a balance of a healthy diet with equal amounts of sleep and exercise.
  • Talking about the heartbreak can sometimes speed the recovery process. Many people seek out a therapist; however, talking to others going through similar situations can help.
  • Try not to isolate yourself. Use this time to expand your horizons.
  • Engage in social activities with friends and family in order to keep your mind off your loss and to focus on moving on with your life.
  • Allow time to heal the wounds. While there’s no set formula to how long it takes to get over a heartbreak. Everyone has the potential to bounce back to life and move forward.

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7 Tips Getting Over A Break Up

1. Letting Go.

What would you do if your house was burnt to the ground, and everything you owned was destroyed? I’m sure you’d be frustrated and angry at first, but at the same time, no amount of anger will undo what has been done. It is what it is. Your best bet is to begin moving on, and working towards creating a new home.

Similarly, when a relationship ends, you’ll want to practice letting go and allowing the healing process to begin quickly.

If you were on the receiving end of a breakup, do not dwell on whether the person will come back or not, if they broke up with you at one point, chances are, something is wrong with the fit of your partnership, and you’ll be better appreciated elsewhere, with someone else. Even if you and the ex get back together, it is unlikely to last.

Trust that everything in the Universe happens for a reason, and it benefits everyone involved in the long run, even if the benefits are not yet clear. Trust that this is the best possible thing to happen to you right now, and the reasons will become clear in the future.

2. Release Tension and Bundled Up Energy.

We all have the need to be understood and heard. Whether we’re on the receiving end or the initiating end of a breakup, we often carry with us the tension and any unexpressed emotions. We can release this extra energy by:

  • Talking about it with a friend.
  • Voicing our opinions honestly and openly with our ex-partner, which have been bottled up in the past.
  • Punching a pillow and crying freely for 10 minutes.
  • Screaming out aloud and imagining unwanted energy being released with your voice (seriously, I’ve done a meditation that incorporated this, and I instantly felt better).
  • Writing in a journal (more on this later).
  • Exercise and body movement.
  • Meditating.

3. Love Yourself.

The practice of loving yourself is the most important aspect on the road to personal happiness and emotional stability. I’ve personally had my most valuable personal growth spurts during the period when I vigorously worked on this aspect of my life.

I did everything from cooking myself fancy dinners, to spending every Sunday on my own doing the things that I loved, to taking myself to Symphonies, to taking overseas trips on my own. Each one had its own challenges and confronted my beliefs about loneliness. Through overcoming the fear of loneliness, I experienced deep joy all by myself. It was so gratifying, refreshing and empowering.

Here are some ideas to cultivate the art of loving yourself:

  • Take yourself on romantic dates as if you were on a date with another person. Put on nice clothes, maybe buy yourself flowers, treat yourself to something delicious, and take long walks under the stars. Whatever your idea of a romantic date is.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. Look yourself in the eyes. Smile slightly with your eyes. Practice giving gratitude to what you see. You don’t need words. Just send out the intent of giving an abundance of love to the eyes that you see, and feel the feelings of love within you. As you are looking into your eyes, look for something you admire about your eyes – maybe the color, the shape, the depth, the exoticness, or even the length of your eye lashes. This will be a little weird and uncomfortable at first, but just trust me, and continue with it. Do this for a few minutes every day.
  • Sit or stand in front of a mirror, or sit somewhere comfortable (mix it up, and do both on different days), put both hands on your chest and say to yourself, “I love you, <insert your name>”. Repeat a few times, slowly. Continue with qualities you like about yourself, or things you are good at. Be generous and list many, even if they sound silly. Example, “I love that you always know how to make your salads so colorful and appetizing.”, “I love that you have the discipline to go to the gym regularly, and you really take care of your body.”, “I love that you are so neat, and can keep your desk so organized.”
  • Practice doing things on your own to challenge your fear of being alone. For example, if you have a fear of eating alone in a restaurant, go out to a restaurant on your own. Your mission is to find the joy within that experience.

4. Love Your Ex-Partner.

Allow the love within you to flow. Try practicing forgiveness and open up your heart.

Over the past few months, my friend and I have been chatting about the topic of overcoming breakups. He had been married for 2 years and went through a divorce that took him 2 years to emotionally recover from. When asked about how he got over his ex-wife, he had a few snippets of wisdom to convey:

  • “I let myself love her. Even when it felt like my heart was going to break. He says something amazing – when people say, ‘My heart feels like it is going to break.’ He says, ‘Let it break. If you let it really break – really, really break, it will transform you.’”
  • “LET YOUR HEART BREAK WIDE OPEN. Let go of every possible belief or thought that says your ex is anything other than the most incredible, amazing, wonderful person in the Universe. You gotta love them and open your broken heart, WIDE OPEN! That’s how to get over a break-up, really get over it. Anything short of that is not gonna do it.”
  • “The key for me was getting utterly clear: we are apart, and the Universe never makes mistakes. We are over. And I can still love her. That was HUGE. I can love her with all my heart and soul and we never have to be together. And when I realized that, I felt amazing. And still do. The freedom was great. I could finally own-up to how much I wanted out of our relationship. All the hurt and anger disappeared. I was free.”

The underlying message of love in my friend’s words is pretty clear and powerful.

5. Give it Time.

It takes time to heal. Be patient. Give it more time. I promise the storm will end, and the sun will peak through the clouds.

6. Journal Your Experience.

Spend some quality time in a comfortable chair, at your desk or at a café, and write your thoughts and feelings on paper. No, not typing on a laptop, writing on paper with a pen. Follow your heart and flow freely, but if you’re stuck, here are some writing exercises you can do:

  • Drill into the why – Start with a question or statement, and continue to drill into why you feel that way until you have a truthful and satisfying reason. The exercise isn’t to issue blame or blow off steam at someone else. It’s meant to gain clarity and understanding into how you feel, so you can alleviate unnecessary pain. For example, you might start with the statement, “I am in a lot of pain, ouch!”, and your why might be “because she left me”. Now ask yourself, “why does that hurt so much?”, and one possible why might be, “because I feel abandoned”. The following why to “why does feeling abandoned hurt so much?”, “because it makes me feel alone”, etc. More than likely, the real reason has something to do with our own insecurities or fears.
  • Finding the Lessons – What did you learn from the relationship? What did you learn from the other person? How is your life better because of it? How will your future relationships be better because of it?

7. Read Something Inspirational.

Books that deal with our emotions and ego are incredible tools at a time of healing. They help to enlighten our understanding of ourselves and our experiences.

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Why Is ‘Break Up’ So Painful?

Falling passionately in love with someone is one of the most exhilarating feelings, as if you had wings and you are flying high in the sky, feeling the wind romantically blowing through your hair. And usually, when love ends, it feels as if you’ve been dropped like a rock in mid-air. You scramble to grab a hold of something … anything, as you witness your body falling at great speeds, and then shattering on the earth below.

Whether we’re talking about breakups, or facing the reality of a one-sided romance, it is painful. So much so that it disrupts our normal flow of experiences, causing us to not function normally.

With so much emotion invested and our identities tied in with these experiences, it’s no wonder that this is the number one topic requested by readers. Over the past year, I have regularly received email from readers sharing their own takes on painful breakups; tales of guilt, of fear, of regret, and of resentment. Although the stories were different, the underlying message was universal and one in the same, “I am in so much pain from not being with this person – what can I do?”

Sometimes, the pain of lost love is so intense that it can shake our beliefs about romance and relationships. When these emotional bruises are not understood and have not healed properly, they become invisible baggage that drag with us into the next relationship. This article focuses on the healing process from “love lost”.

The Origins of Love and Pain:

I believe that love is a universal energy infused in all forms of life. It is something that lies within the core of every one of us. When we are in a state of conscious awareness, the intense feeling of love and connection is clear and undeniable. When we are in this state of clarity and inner peace, our thoughts and actions are based in love and truth.

Within the depths of our souls, we are all connected by this unifying and essential energy of life – love. We occasionally experience glimpses of this deep connection through various and accidental happenstances, such as:

  • A gratifying and intimate conversation with another person. Sharing and expressing your thoughts honestly and openly.
  • Creative expressions such as playing music, writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, designing or even computer programming.
  • Meditation, prayers or communing with your chosen religious group.
  • Communing with nature during a hike, a walk or while sitting by the bed of a river flowing beautifully in front of you.
  • During sexual orgasm.

When we fall in love with another person, we are essentially experiencing the love that was within us all along. The person is merely acting like a mirror reflecting our soul back at us. Technically, we can’t “fall” in love, because we are already made of love. The other person, much like a musical instrument, is the catalyst allowing us to recognize the beauty that’s already within us.

Because of our lack of understanding that love resides within us, and that we actually have the power to invoke it on our own, we credit it to the other person for giving love to us. This feeling is so strong and extraordinary, that we become addictive and possessive. We want to capture it and keep it fixed, so that we can – at last – keep this heightened feeling forever.

The desire and dependency to keep this form fixed, becomes a source of self identification that artificially justifies who we are as physical beings. We become attached to the fixed idea of how our relationship should go and our ego quickly becomes the main investor in this fund of a relationship.

The truth is that, everyone and everything is in a constant flow of change. The changes in us and in our external circumstances are inevitable and undeniable. When we change, the dynamics of our relationships change – not just romantic ones, but also friendships, family ties, and our relationships with co-workers.

Over time, some relationships strengthen and some grow apart. When people grow apart, it doesn’t mean that either one of them was a bad person, but rather that they’ve learned all that they needed to from the other person, and that it’s time to move on.

When it’s time to move on, we hold onto this invisible box that contains an idealized and fixated form of how things should be. We unconsciously and instinctively fall into the false believe that we must stop the love when we are no longer romantically involved.

Because we attribute love as being ‘to’ this other person external to us, pain happens when we forcefully try to kill the love, which is actually within us.

Let’s repeat: Pain happens when we forcefully kill the love that’s within us.

When we forcefully try to kill the love within us, it physically feels as if someone has stabbed a knife into our heart, and a sharp pain surfaces in our chest area. In reality, we are that someone doing the stabbing, because we are trying to sever our innate connection to love and our soul is now bleeding. Our soul is crying for help, asking us to stop the stabbing, to stop the pain.

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