Falling in love can feel intense and often leaves people giddy and euphoric. But being dumped by your partner or experiencing the sudden demise of a loved one can trigger a rush of negative emotions that can feel physically painful too. In fact, the pain one experiences from an emotional break-up is very real and actually has an explanation, experts have said.
According to Live Science, there is a physiological explanation for why heartbreak can be such a painful experience and symptoms aren't just in the mind, said Dr Deborah Lee, a medical writer for the Dr Fox Online Pharmacy in England.
"When you fall in love, there is a natural outpouring of hormones. These include the 'cuddle' hormone oxytocin and the 'feel-good' hormone dopamine," she said. "But when you fall out of love, levels of oxytocin and dopamine drop, while at the same time there is an increase in levels of one of the hormones responsible for stress - cortisol," Dr Lee explained.
According to the medical expert, these raised cortisol levels can contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure, weight gain, acne and increased anxiety. Social rejection, such as breaking up with a partner, also activates areas of the brain associated with physical pain, she noted.
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Further, according to Live Science, in rare cases, the feeling of a broken heart can be a medical condition too. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as 'broken heart syndrome', is a generally short-term heart condition triggered by intense emotional or physical stress. It causes temporary changes to the way the heart pumps blood and sometimes causes the heart to pump harder, which is often experienced as chest pain.
The symptoms of broken heart syndrome mimic a heart attack, which can make it difficult for patients and doctors to tell the difference between the two. In most cases, the only way to diagnose broken heart syndrome is through a left heart catheterization, or coronary angiogram, during which a small catheter is inserted through the groin, arm, or neck and guided to the heart. After injecting a contrast dye into the heart's chamber, physicians can evaluate its effectiveness.
Typically, broken heart syndrome is only caused by severe stressors and usually only occurs once. Most people get over the pain within a few days or weeks, but it has ended in death in a small number of cases.
However, experts explained that while heartbreak can be devastating, romantically bonding - and the pain people experience when these bonds are broken - may be a trait that humans have evolved to help them survive.