Takotsubo Syndrome: When a Broken Heart Actually Breaks the Heart

a cracked heart painted on dried cracking clay

Joe Borders, MFT

By Joe Borders, MFT

Therapist in Sacramento and Roseville

July 9, 2020

Takotsubo Syndrome:
When a Broken Heart Actually Breaks the Heart

You’ve undoubtedly heard someone say they had a broken heart before. But is there more to that statement than an expression of emotional pain? Research has shown that extreme stress such as the loss of a loved one can actually cause physical changes to your heart that impairs its functioning.

Within healthcare circles, this is known as Takotsubo syndrome, or broken heart syndrome. Most common in women above the age of 50, Takatsubo syndrome changes the functioning of the heart and results in many symptoms resembling a heart attack.

It’s called Takotsubo syndrome because the physical change in the heart, seen from an x-ray looks like a Japanese octopus trap; takotsubo meaning octopus pot.

There are many ways that the body synchronizes itself with our emotional states. Takotsubo syndrome is an example of this. Fortunately Takotsubo syndrome is easy to treat and can be detected fairly easily. I actually first heard of Takatsubo syndrome when talking with a cardiologist who said she saw it all the time in her work and could usually tell right away from a quick glance at an x-ray or ultrasound.

I occasionally bring up issues like Takotsubo syndrome in therapy because we often think of there being a real separation between our minds and our bodies, when really the two are very connected. If you are exposed to chronic stress your body will produce corticosteroids that, while being good for short bursts of fight or flight, long term will wear you down and actually make you ill and damage your body. Similarly, our mental states can effect our bodies in other ways like Takotsubo syndrome.

The take away from all of this is that you should really honor and acknowledge your emotions. Some try to get through hard times through sheer grit and ignore their emotions. It’s important for you to have the time and the space to grieve and process the loss of a loved one. Be kind to yourself and listen to your heart.

To read more about Takotsubo syndrome, check out this article on Harvard Medical School’s website:

If you or someone you love is going through a great deal of stress, grief, and/or loss. It might be time to consider counseling. SacWellness is home to many therapists in the greater Sacramento area including many who do grief and loss therapy.

About the Author

Joe Borders, MFTJoe Borders is a marriage and family therapist located in Roseville and Sacramento. He is primarily a sex positive gender therapist, but also specializes in working with couples, teens, addiction, and the LGBTQ community. Joe is also the owner and founder of SacWellness. You can find out more about him by visiting his sacwellness listing or by visiting his website: therapy and counseling in Roseville and Sacramento


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