How Understanding The Science Of Broken Heart Syndrome Will Help You Get Over Him Faster

When you know why a broken heart makes you feel this way, you can begin to heal.

Last updated on Jun 08, 2023

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In doing my research for this article, I found several articles discussing how there really is a thing called "Broken Heart Syndrome" that can be identified in scans of the heart.

People complaining of a "broken heart" experience symptoms similar to a heart attack, complete with pain and distress. While they are not the associated arterial blockages normally associated with heart attack, the heart becomes misshapen causing interference with its optimal functioning.


Cortisol levels increase while norepinephrine levels drop, creating a serious stress response.

Researchers found that the same area of the brain is triggered by emotional pain as physical pain and that the experience is comparable to an addict going through withdrawal. After all, love has been shown to increase the hormone, oxytocin, the "feel good" hormone. Suddenly deprived of these levels following the loss of a relationship would predictably result in symptoms of withdrawal.

So yes, science has discovered that Broken Heart Syndrome really is a legitimate "thing".

RELATED: How To Heal Your Weary, Broken Heart


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Is Broken Heart Syndrome avoidable?

If you want to innoculate yourself from ever experiencing Broken Heart Syndrome again, unfortunately, science has not yet discovered how to do that. But Choice Theory by Dr. William Glasser provides an explanation, as well as guidance, on what you can do to shorten its duration, so you aren’t just waiting for "time to heal all wounds."

In the early '80s, Dr. Glasser created his concept of total behavior to describe how our mental and physical processes are not separated but rather have a direct influence on each other. All any of us do from birth to death is behave and each behavior contains four inseparable component parts — our actions that can be observed, our thoughts, our emotions and our body’s physiology.


Choice Theory uses the analogy of a car to represent the concept of total behavior, with the four components of behavior being analogous to the four wheels of the car. The front wheels, the ones that can be directly controlled, are the actions and the thoughts.

The back wheels are indirectly controlled by choosing different actions and feelings. You are the driver of your own car unless you hand your keys to someone else and allow them to drive you around.

It is virtually impossible to do anything without all four simultaneous components being present, although one component can be experienced by the individual, or noticed by an observer, to be more prominent than the rest at any point in time.

RELATED: How A Broken Heart Killed The Romantic In Me


Emotional and psychological aspects of Broken Heart Syndrome

When a person is suffering from Broken Heart Syndrome, it’s often the emotional and physiological components that appear prominently. To the individual, it feels like those things are out of control because you can’t simply choose to change your emotions or physiology at will.

When you are functioning predominantly from the back wheels of your behavior car, you feel like a victim who is unable to regain control of your life.

When you understand and practice Choice Theory, you realize that to get to a place where you can feel better, you need to take control over the components you can directly control — your actions and your thinking. 

Choice Theory does not recommend distraction or "stuffing" your emotions, but rather it involves aligning your thoughts and actions with the person you want to be while trusting that your emotions and physiology will eventually shift to get in line with your new actions and thoughts.


This is not to imply this process is easy. It is quite simple to understand intellectually, but it often requires guidance and practice until it becomes a proficient behavior.

RELATED: Why I Travel To Cure My Broken Heart

Steps to help recover from Broken Heart Syndrome

I have been practicing Choice Theory for 30 years and whenever I am experiencing an emotion or physiology I don’t like, I follow the process below and you can too in order to get over a breakup:

  • Recognize undesirable emotions and physiology. Honor them as valid.
  • Decide you want to have/do/be better.
  • Examine your thoughts and actions to determine what is creating the emotions and physiology you don’t want. The obvious answer is an external one: "I’m feeling this way because you left me." For this step, you need to look internally. What are you doing? What are you thinking that’s creating these emotions and physiology?
  • Clarify what you really want for yourself. The answer isn’t the external "I want you back" but rather it’s more "Who do you want to be in this situation? Do you want to be the brokenhearted one, the angry one, the numb one, the resilient one, or something else?"
  • Align your thoughts and actions to your answers to the questions above.

RELATED: 6 Ways You Sabotage Relationships Because You're Afraid Of A Broken Heart

Kim Olver is the author of Secrets of Happy Couples: Loving Yourself, Your Partner, and Your Life