Broken Heart Syndrome
Paul Tautges has served Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as pastor since 1992. He is also an adjunct professor of biblical counseling and conference speaker. Paul has authored eight books including Counsel One Another, Comfort Those Who Grieve, The Discipline of Mercy, and Brass Heavens. He is also the editor of the popular Help! discipleship counseling booklet series (24 titles). Paul is a NANC Fellow and a Council Board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He and his wife Karen are the parents of ten children. Paul blogs regularly at counselingoneanother.com.
- 2013 Jul 14
Broken Heart Syndrome is a modern day example of ancient, biblical truth: Deep grief and high levels of mental and emotional stress may cause physical, medical problems. Psalm 31:9-10 testifies of this: “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.”
Can Stress Cause Heart Attack?
Symptoms of heart attack are nothing to ignore. According to the Mayo Clinic, Broken Heart Syndrome “is a temporary heart condition brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they're having a heart attack. These broken heart syndrome symptoms may be brought on by the heart's reaction to a surge of stress hormones. In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn't pump well, while the remainder of the heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. The condition was originally called takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Today, it's also referred to as stress cardiomyopathy, stress-induced cardiomyopathy or apical ballooning syndrome. The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself in about a week.
Broken heart syndrome symptoms can mimic a heart attack. Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- An irregular heartbeat
- A generalized weakness
According to the Mayo Clinic staff, any long-lasting or persistent chest pain could be a sign of a heart attack, so it's important to take it seriously and call 911 if you experience chest pain.
Grief and Joy have Powerful Effects on the Body
Thousands of years ago, the Patriarchs recognized the potential impact of powerful emotions on the body. For example, Jacob and his sons acknowledged this connection. Jacob feared the possibility of premature death caused by deep sorrow and distress (Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29), and his son Judah’s plea for the release of his youngest brother, Benjamin, includes this understanding. While begging Joseph, who had not yet disclosed himself, to let him return Benjamin to his father, Judah said, “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy's life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol” (Genesis 44:30-31).
Biblical counselors quickly recognize that they are not medical physicians. Respect for reliable medical research, recommendations, and intervention is wise. Broken Heart Syndrome is one illustration of the need that we take seriously the warning signs of the body. As we counsel one another through times of deep sorrow and high stress let us remain conscious of respecting our body’s need for proper rest, nutrition, and stress-reducing recreation. For Scripture also testifies, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).