Heartbreak syndrome and physical pain

Heartbreak syndrome and physical pain

"Feeling a lump in the throat" or "having a broken heart" are expressions that we use in a figurative sense. However, emotional pain can actually have physical manifestations of this type.

Heartbreak syndrome and physical pain

Last update: April 18, 2022

When we go through moments of great emotional suffering, we can say that our heart hurts. This sentence, halfway between the poetic and the literal, helps us to express the greatness of the pain experienced. And it is that a broken heart, metaphorically speaking, often brings with it various physical ailments. Not by chance, we talk about heartbreak syndrome.



The physical and psychic spheres are not separate, rather they are connected and almost invariably problems in one manifest themselves in the other as well. Several scientific studies indicate that emotional pain can indeed manifest on a physical level.

Heartbreak Syndrome

Many life situations can lead us to claim that we are heartbroken. The death of a loved one, a love breakup, the betrayal of a friend, a disappointment on the part of someone we fully trusted, etc.

When we say we are heartbroken, we express an overwhelming sadness, intense nostalgia, a pain that paralyzes us. With these words we try to capture the emotional suffering we are experiencing, so intense as to seem tangible.

We feel confused, lost, vulnerable and devastated. We lose interest in everything around us and the energy seems to leave our body. The present becomes unbearable and the future unimaginable. We begin to feel weak, fragile and unable to cope with adversity.

A pain that is felt on a physical level

Science has found that the same brain area that processes physical pain is also responsible for processing emotional pain. Just as there are physical injuries that cause chronic pain, there are also emotional wounds that many people cannot recover from.



The physical manifestations of emotional distress are diverse and known to everyone. Who hasn't felt a squeeze in the throat when sadness or anguish was intense? Who hasn't felt the so-called knot in the stomach in an anxiety-provoking situation?

Psychosomatic disorders have accompanied us since we were children, organically revealing the emotional load that we are unable to manage. Many children experience frequent headaches or digestive disorders for which no physiological cause is found, as they are caused by psychological distress.

Once adults we can also suffer from muscle aches, headaches, heartburn or indigestion, skin irritations and endless physical symptoms due to emotional causes.

But, without a doubt, the most striking manifestation of this phenomenon is the so-called heartbreak syndrome.

Heartbreak Syndrome

This disease does not literally break the heart, but it deforms it. When going through a situation that is a source of high emotional stress, a sudden release of large doses of catecholamines occurs in the body.

The increase of these substances causes the heart rate to skyrocket, generating physical and real damage to the heart. Something tangible and easy to visualize in diagnostic tests. The person suffering from it experiences symptoms similar to those of a heart attack, such as chest pain and shortness of breath.


It is a disease for which there is a cure and which does not cause permanent sequelae. Even so, the phenomenon is important enough to invite us to reflect.

Develop resilience to prevent heartbreak syndrome

Stressful experiences that can cause heartbreak are relatively common, in fact many people go through them without ever experiencing this disorder.


In the same way, not all of us have the same predisposition to manifest somatic symptoms when we face emotional adversity.


The difference lies in the levels of resilience, that is, the skills and personal resources at our disposal to deal with negative, unexpected or stressful situations. The coping strategies we adopt make a difference in the degree to which such experiences affect us.

Fortunately, the resilience can be developed and we are always in time to acquire new resources and more adequate strategies. We work on ourselves and our personal development to prevent the body from screaming out the pain we have not been able to express.

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