Can a friend break your heart

Relationships - When the heart breaks: How lovesickness can make you sick

Most people are hit with full force: An intimate relationship breaks - and so does the heart. The term lovesick? "It's far too harmless for that," says Günter H. Seidler, specialist in psychotherapy and professor at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.

"Separations and unhappy loves can not only trigger temporary sadness, they can actually make you sick," says the expert. However, many adults would not take this seriously. “They assume that that little bit of heartache will go away by itself over time.” It is often the case - but not always.

“The pain can last for two years,” says Seidler. “And sometimes a whole life too.” How people deal with their grief is very different: Many then rush straight into the next relationship - but still drag the burden of the old one with them. "The new partnership then still bears the mortgage from the previous one, which is not a good foundation."

Lovesickness can be similar to depression

Elena Sohn, author of the book “Goodbye Herzschmerz”, also advises against sweeping lovesickness under the rug. “The symptoms are like depression,” she says. Those affected struggle, for example, with a lack of perspective, depression, lack of sleep, loss of appetite or listlessness. Sohn runs the Liebeskümmerer consulting agency - just for such cases.

In her practice she most often sees people between the ages of 30 and 40, but also many over the age of 70. "People of older age often wonder whether it was the last time they fell in love." Many of her clients are marriages of reason broke out and got to know real love for the first time at a late age. "When this new, beloved partner breaks up, a world does indeed collapse."

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Important: friendships and hobbies

It is then important - regardless of age - to focus on yourself and to take good care of yourself. "It helps many people to talk about their situation and to see what is still important in their own life," says Sohn. That could be a fulfilling job, a hobby or contact with good friends. “It is always the most difficult for those who have seen their entire happiness in partnership. That is an immense expectation that often overwhelms the other. "

Separation Pain: Accepting Therapeutic Help

But what to do if all else fails? "Some people are haunted again and again by downright memory torrents," says Seidler. "These memories force themselves on those affected, they then feel helpless at the mercy." Anger states are also not uncommon. "If after a long time the thoughts are still only about the lost person, something should happen." In such cases, outside help may be required. One possibility is the psychotherapeutic method Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short. This is a method of treating post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of which can be similar to the pain of separation.

Broken Heart Syndrome - triggered by emotional stress

But lovesickness is not always the dark companion that slowly creeps up a big place in life. There are people who get terminally ill all of a sudden. This phenomenon is called broken heart syndrome, and doctors also speak of Tako Tsubo syndrome. Those affected suffer acute heart failure, triggered by severe emotional stress.

"Many come to the clinic with chest pain and shortness of breath and everything speaks for a heart attack at first," explains Katrin Streckfuß-Bömeke, biologist at the University Medical Center Göttingen who researches the disease. Classic case of broken heart syndrome: after long years of marriage, the husband suddenly dies. Shortly afterwards, the woman comes to the hospital with a heartache - and in the worst case dies. “Broken heart syndrome can indeed be fatal in the acute phase,” says Streckfuß-Bömeke.

Process losses better through therapy

In this acute phase, which usually lasts one to three days, many patients develop concomitant diseases such as pulmonary edema or so-called cardiogenic shocks, in which the heart fails to pump. "Broken heart syndrome occurs more frequently in women during menopause," says Streckfuß-Bömeke. People with broken heart syndrome are usually treated like patients with heart failure. "In contrast to a heart attack, patients recover very well after they have survived the dangerous acute phase," says Streckfuß-Bömeke. "After two months, most of them are completely healthy again."

However, she advises considering psychotherapeutic help after recovering from illness. “Patients sometimes relapse. Here therapy could help to avoid falling into such an emotional stressful situation again and to better deal with the loss that might be behind it. "

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From RND / dpa