Friday, February 19, 2016

Did You Know? Broken Heart Syndrome

Broken Heart Syndrome
by Guest Blogger LaKisha L. Sharp, M.S., M.A.

Did you know February is American Heart Month?

Medical research has confirmed a strong relationship between one’s emotional and physical functioning. Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, commonly known as “Broken Heart Syndrome” is a stress-induced cardiac disorder which mimics a heart attack. Physiologically, the condition manifests when normal heart arteries are attached to an abnormally enlarged blood-pumping chamber (Maldonado, Pajouhi, & Witteles, 2013). The name of the syndrome tako-tsubo is derived from Japanese language because the cardiovascular abnormality is said to resemble the shape of a fishing pot used to catch octopus in Japan (Maldonado et al., 2013).

The exact cause of Broken Heart Syndrome is unknown however major life stressors such as death, divorce, and sudden changes in one’s financial status (e.g. loss of fortune, winning the lottery) are positively correlated with the development of said medical condition. Similarly, over 65% of persons diagnosed with Broken Heart Syndrome also have a pre-existing diagnosis of anxiety or depression (Maldonado et al., 2013). A family history of mood disorders (e.g. depression and/or anxiety) and social isolation are hypothesized to be predisposing risk factors (Maldonado et al., 2013). Interestingly, postmenopausal women, aged 68 years or older are disproportionately diagnosed with Broken Heart Syndrome compared to men (Derrick, 2009).

The primary signs and symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome include:
  • Chest pain (Angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmia)
  • Cardiogenic shock (Diminished blood-pumping/circulation)
The American Heart Association and Cardiomyopathy UK are both helpful, quick reference websites which contain additional information about Broken Heart Syndrome, the management of stress, and treatment options.


Derrick, D. (2009). The “broken heart syndrome”: understanding Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Critical Care Nurse, 29(1), 49-57.

Maldonado, J. R., Pajouhi, P., & Witteles, R. (2013). Case Reports Broken Heart Syndrome (Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy) Triggered by Acute Mania: A Review and Case Report. Psychosomatics, 54(1), 74-79.

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LaKisha L. Sharp is a fourth year doctoral student in clinical and forensic psychology at Fielding Graduate University. She previously completed Masters Degrees in criminal justice at Tiffin University and clinical psychology at Fielding Graduate University, respectively. For over 12 years, LaKisha has been employed as a forensic probation officer supervising a caseload of adult, severely mentally ill, felony offenders sentenced to a term of community control supervision as part of Cuyahoga County’s Common Pleas Court Mental Health Docket. LaKisha was recently appointed as faculty to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Judicial College to teach cognitive behavioral therapy to all newly hired probation and parole officers in the state.