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How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

  • Author(s): Service, Shannon
  • et al.
Abstract

For decades, studies on relationships and heartbreak went unfunded because, said psychologist and love researcher Dr. Arthur Aron says, they were considered "wussy." Now, however, study after study is proving that heartache is more powerful than we ever imagined. Last year, Dr. Aron teamed up with renowned biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher--who’s probably most famous for writing the questions for Chemistry.com--on a study showing that people jonesing for their exes have brain images similar to addicts trying to kick cocaine. The study confirmed several similar ones and added to a growing consensus that love has a lot in common addiction.

When a heart breaks, the body also releases a flood of stress chemicals that can cause coronary seizures in otherwise healthy people. It’s called “Broken Heart Syndrome” and is currently treated at all the nation’s major hospitals and heart institutions. Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Ian Wittstein, the lead author of the New England Journal of Medicine study announcing the syndrome said that Broken Heart Syndrome appears in every way like a standard heart attack. The patient will call 911 reporting a heart attack. The EMTs will do an EKG and conclude it’s a heart attack. “Even at the Emergency Room level,” he said, “they’re going to treat you for a heart attack. It’s not until you’re checked into the hospital and they perform an echocardiogram that the difference becomes clear.” People with Broken Heart Syndrome have an enlarged left ventricle and a closing of the arteries due not to cholesterol, but to overwhelming emotion. "I’ve seen plenty of people who are very, very sick," Dr. Wittstein says. "You can easily end up in the Intensive Care Unit and, without care, you could die."

In addition to the science of splitting up, this article explores and a curious museum in Croatia called “The Museum of Broken Relationships.” It started as a small collection of

breakup items from an ex-couple in Zagreb’s local art festival, but it quickly went viral with sold-out exhibits around the world. The exhibit toured for four years and, at each stop, people lined up to handover their own heartbreak memorabilia: a box of tears from a man in Berlin, the wooden-handled axe a woman used to hack her cheating lover’s furniture, more wedding dresses than they could ever display at once. Last fall, with over four hundred items, the ex-couple took over an Austrian palace in the heart of Zagreb’s historic center and opened a permanent Museum of Broken Relationships.

This is a first person article exploring what happens when we love, we lose and we dive into the wreckage.

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