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St. Valentine’s Day: Heartache is healthy

(Vienna, 13th February 2014) Tomorrow, 14 February, St. Valentine’s Day will be celebrated with the most wide-ranging declarations of love. But what happens when the great love affair is over and heartache sets it? "Heartache is healthy if you admit to it and give yourself time to grieve properly and work through the pain," comments Stephan Doering, Head of the University Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at the MedUni Vienna.

"By all means go ahead and own up to your heartache, it's a healthy reaction," the expert advises. "It is completely normal to be sad after splitting up and to work through the loss in order to be open to new things again afterwards." From a psychoanalytical point of view, it would be rather alarming if someone does not experience any grief, this could mean that the person concerned has another psychological problem. "Heartache is therefore worth having after all," says Doering in a reference to the well-known German pop song and often covered number 1 hit "Liebeskummer lohnt sich nicht" ("Heartache is not worth it") from the 60s.

Heartache as a potential trigger of psychological disorders
How long the heartache goes on varies considerably and depends on the duration and depth of emotional involvement in the preceding relationship. Says Doering: "Heartache can go on for months if someone has been very much in love." Normally, however, professional help would not be needed.

Only if the heartbreak appears to be unending, the grief takes on dramatic aspects and one finds oneself in a vicious cycle without being able to overcome the pain and if negative effects on everyday life and job are perceived, then psychotherapeutic support can be of assistance. Heartache can also be the trigger for other mental illnesses such as depression. Anxiety disorders, psychosomatic illnesses or schizophrenia can result as well – as a rule, though, only when there is a corresponding predisposition or history.

"Heartache and the mental stress associated with it can trigger latent psychological disorders in the person affected," Doering explains. "It then acts like an old wound, which opens up again and which goes back to earlier separations or losses experienced." Possible background factors alongside earlier separations or deaths are, for example, the loss of recognition at work, loss of property or hard losses in the social environment.