Emotional pain can be challenging to cope with. If you're experiencing pain in your heart, unrelated to a heart attack or other health concerns, or difficult emotions, you might not be sure how to proceed. Knowing that emotional pain can lead to both physical and mental health symptoms can be one place to start. If you are thinking, “my heart hurts emotionally”, you're not alone in the pain you're feeling.
Certain physical illnesses or circumstances, such as a clog in your coronary arteries or severe allergic reactions, may leave you with heart-related pain. However, this pain is often unrelated to physical illness. Despite the discomfort, extreme grief, sadness, fear, stress, or other emotions can be a cause of physical ailments. In these cases, learning how to control your emotions can be beneficial. Many people also find counseling supportive during these times.
Does Your Heart Or Chest Hurt?
It can be normal to experience physical pain when experiencing intense emotions. Studies have found this is a common phenomenon, with many people associating sadness with physical pain. This emotional pain is temporary for some people and might occur while crying or during a difficult moment. For others, the pain can last longer or appear throughout the day. Regardless, it is often a safe pain and may not be associated with physical issues such as heart failure, blood clots, or low blood pressure. However, if you are experiencing chest pain and are unsure of the cause, you can talk to your doctor to rule out concerns like a heart attack, heart failure, heart disease, or other heart related health issues. Take note of your symptoms so that you can accurately report them to your doctor to receive a diagnosis.
However, if your chest pain is related to emotional distress, you may be experiencing a broken heart. For those who experience emotional pain long-term, there may be stress-related physical challenges, such as inflammation, chest pain, headaches, high blood pressure, or chronic pain. Prolonged emotional and physical pain can also be a sign of depression or anxiety, two mental health conditions often accompanying physical symptoms.
You may also be facing physical conditions like broken heart syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. Broken heart syndrome, which can also be referred to as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, can occur when someone experiences periods of extreme emotional or physical stress. This stress can overwhelm the body and cause heart muscle weakness as the heart contracts. Those experiencing a heartbreak or broken heart syndrome may feel as though they are having heart attack-like symptoms, often experiencing symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath. In those cases, it's important for patients to talk to their primary care physician about any symptoms they have been experiencing. Heart attacks and other chest issues can be urgent concerns and require professional medical attention.
How To Cope With Heart Pain And Emotional Pain
Your heart health, whether physical or emotional, can be important to maintain. While it can be challenging to experience painful situations, there are ways to learn from these experiences and recover. The following tips may guide you as you learn to cope with your emotions. Note that suppressing emotions can increase physical and emotional challenges, so being open and willing to cope with them is often the healthiest option.
Discover What You Can Learn From This Situation
Many people find themselves in situations that cause heartache at some point in their lives. If you find yourself in this place, consider processing the situation to see what you can learn about yourself or others as you advance.
For example, if a significant other disrespects you, consider what signs you might look out for in your next relationship to avoid these patterns. You can also consider your boundaries with this individual to defend yourself from harm. Emotional pain often teaches lessons and can tell you when you're in an unsafe situation or unhappy. Keep these things in mind as you move forward.
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Tap Into Your Support System
If you feel your pain is too much to handle alone, talking with a family member or friend you can trust may be beneficial during stressful situations. Researchers have found that social connection can increase physical and emotional health, which may help you relieve your physical symptoms.
When you talk to these people, let them know how you feel and what you need from them. Heartache may be a sign that you need someone to spend time with to help distract you from sitting in your pain. Your family and friends may also have a unique perspective to support you through these feelings. If you do not have a close support system, consider the following options:
- Making friends in online support groups
- Attending an in-person support group
- Joining a club at your university
- Attending a meet-up with a group in your town
- Going to events in your city and talking to people to make friends
- Talking to a therapist
Acknowledge Your Ability To Persevere
There may be times when you feel as if you can't make it past a particular heartache. In these cases, reflecting on other times you have experienced emotional pain and persevered may be beneficial. If you have lived through an experience you weren't sure you could handle, such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one, consider thinking of any newfound strength you could tap into because of this experience. Doing so may help you build confidence to face the situation at hand. Knowing that you overcame a situation where you felt intense heartache and survived can help you build resiliency.
Look For Ways To Help Others
When you go through difficult situations, it can open a door for you to help others going through similar situations. At a certain point in your recovery process, it may help you take a step forward if you take your focus off yourself and use your time and energy to help someone else.
If someone is going through a situation similar to what you have been through, you may be able to empathize with them more than others. You may be able to use your experience to encourage them to continue moving forward as well. Helping others can also give you a sense of purpose, showing you that you make a positive difference in the world.
Seek Professional Support
It can be easy to feel stuck in emotional pain. You might struggle to recover and move past it. If you feel trapped in your pain, consider contacting a counselor for further support. A licensed therapist can be a guide as you move through these experiences and teach you to cope with stress induced physical symptoms and emotional pain. If you feel hesitant to reach out to a therapist in person for any reason or can't afford face-to-face counseling, you might also benefit from online therapy.
Online counseling can make receiving support easier for people experiencing emotional pain. Seeing a counselor from home online can make you feel comfortable during challenging moments. In addition, online therapy is often hundreds of dollars cheaper per month. Studies have found it more cost-effective than most forms of face-to-face therapy.
Research in the field of psychology has found online therapy to be an effective alternative to in-person counseling. One study suggested no significant differences between internet-based therapy and the traditional office-based variety in terms of positive client outcomes. To get started, you can complete a brief questionnaire through a platform like BetterHelp to receive support within 48 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions about growing from heartache.
What Does It Mean If My Heart Hurts?
You may be familiar with a few of the most common causes of heart and chest pain. A few causes of chest pain may be associated with the heart or lungs, like coronary artery disease, mitral valve prolapse, high blood pressure, angina, COPD, cardiac arrest (heart attack), and other physical conditions. Contact your medical doctor immediately if you suspect you are experiencing a physical heart concern.
Heart disease is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the world. However, emotional distress from a painful situation can also cause physical symptoms, such as unexplained chest pain, stomach aches, and whole-body aches. Heart pain may not always be a sign of an underlying physical concern.
While scientists are still researching the link between emotional pain and physical pain, preliminary studies show that the areas of the brain that control emotional reactions can overstimulate the vagus nerve, the longest of 12 cranial nerves responsible for heart rate and cardiovascular activity, among other functions. When the vagus nerve is overstimulated, it can cause chest pain and a rapid heartbeat.
Although heart pain may be emotionally related, seek emergency medical attention if you experience new or worsening chest or heart pain along with any of the following symptoms:
- Discomfort, numbing, prickling, or a burning sensation in the arms, neck, back, or jaw
- Cold sweats or dizziness
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Pressure, squeezing, or stabbing chest pain that gets worse
- Extreme fatigue
- Sudden nausea or vomiting
- A fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
Should I Worry If My Heart Is Hurting?
Although there are many possible causes of chest pain, cardiologists and family physicians recommend not ignoring the pain in or around the chest area. Speak to your medical doctor if you're unsure. However, know that chest pain is often associated with emotional concerns, including panic attacks and some mental health conditions.
How Do I Stop My Heart Hurting?
If your heart physically hurts, see a doctor to rule out serious cardiovascular issues. Talking to a licensed therapist may be beneficial if you're hurting emotionally. Counseling may help you gain emotional control skills and further understand your body's needs.
Are Chest Pains Normal?
While chest pain may sometimes be related to emotional pain, it can also be a signal for severe health conditions. Contact your primary care physician if you're unsure whether your chest pain is normal or healthy.
Can You Physically Hurt From Sadness?
Sadness is a feeling of emotional pain, often due to loss. Sadness may flood your body with hormones like cortisol. Excess stress hormones in the body can cause physical sensations in your heart and nervous system, like chest pain, itching, or a rapid heart rate.
How Can I Stop Hurting Emotionally?
Emotional resilience is one way to cope with pain from sadness. One way to reduce this pain could be physical exercise. Studies show that exercise can improve mental health and increase beneficial chemicals in the brain and body that may improve mood. There are many other ways to deal with emotional pain. You might also reduce emotional pain by partaking in a hobby. Consider painting, singing, drawing, gardening, or trying a new activity you've wanted to try for a long time. Distracting yourself may bring you out of your emotional pain and into the moment.
In addition, try to turn toward your emotions and ask yourself why they occur. Label the emotion and ask yourself where you feel it in your body while mindfully focusing on how it feels for you. Try repeating positive affirmations like "I am resilient" or "I can exist alongside my pain." While you focus on your body, don't judge yourself, and try to focus on the idea that you can move forward. If you struggle with this process, you can also talk to a therapist to learn more about mindfulness, which is a process that has been proven to decrease depression and anxiety levels.
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What is emotional stress?
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What are the side effects of crying on the heart?
Is heartbreak the worst pain?
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