(Dr Shyam K Bhat MD is a psychiatrist, the founder of Seraniti.com and also a trustee at the Live Love Laugh Foundation, founded by Deepika Padukone. His first book, How To Heal Your Broken Heart: A Psychiatrist's Guide to Dealing with Heartbreak, is available on the Juggernaut app. He spoke to ndtv.com's Suparna Singh.)
1) In medical or psychiatric terms, what amounts to or qualifies as a broken heart?
In psychological terms, heartbreak refers to the emotional pain that a person feels when they lose the object of their love.
2) What are its symptoms?
Heartbreak can affect the mind, body and spirit. Many people go through a roller coaster of emotions - sadness, anger, despair, denial; they feel alone, suffer a loss of self-esteem. They may experience physical symptoms - fatigue, decreased immunity, body aches and pains, altered sleep and appetite. In severe instances, those suffering from heartbreak may begin to question the very purpose of their life, and may have suicidal thoughts and even attempt or commit suicide.
3) Is broken-heartedness more common in India than other countries? Among what age group is it most prevalent?
The severity of heartbreak is more in India - as a culture we are unprepared for romantic heartbreak since this is the first generation that is dating so prolifically. According to research, Indians also carry a variant of a gene that makes 40% of the population vulnerable to clinical depression after a stressful event such as heartbreak.
The most vulnerable are the young - 16 to 29. But it's my observation that many people in their 30s and 40s and older are suffering the subtle effects of a distant heartbreak that they may not even remember, and not know.
4) Does eating or drinking certain things help? Chocolate or wine? (Please say yes.)
I wish I could. But chocolate or wine only bring momentary pleasure, releasing dopamine, the same neurochemical that romantic love stimulates in the brain.
While these strategies can dull the pain, they don't actually help heal heartbreak. Of course, in small doses, any pleasurable activity can help people tolerate emotional pain, until time heals the wounds. The danger is that these strategies will lead to harmful effects (alcoholism or metabolic or weight issues because of a bad diet).
5) Can one die of a broken heart, or is that (mercifully) just a saying?
It's rare. But it can happen - heartbreak can literally break your heart. A condition called takotsubo cardiomyopathy can occur during times of severe emotional stress such as heartbreak - the body releases huge amounts of stress hormones such as adrenaline which cause weakening of the heart muscles; the heart swells like a thin balloon and can cause death.
6) If counseling is not affordable or not feasible, what are the best "cures" for a broken heart?
Time. Exercise. Meditation can help you connect with the love that is within you at all times. Also try connecting with loved ones - family and friends.
7) How much should one grieve or wallow right after a broken heart? What's the advice about "just moving on"?
Wallow, no. But grieve most certainly, as much as you feel. Don't force anything and also, don't block any feelings.
8) If so, what is the best and most effective way to grieve?
The most effective way to grieve is to allow the feelings to come without blocking it, and to talk to a trusted friend or a counsellor during the time of grief. Also, give it adequate time, don't rush the process too much.
9) When the time comes to "move on", how does one do that?
I recommend the following steps: accept that it is over and let go of the relationship. Surrender to a higher power. Live and enjoy the present moment. Get a balanced view of the relationship - don't idealise what you have lost. Write down all the negatives of the relationship you have lost and the positives of letting it go. Stay optimistic. Don't jump into another relationship until you heal.
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