Blog: Doctor, I Have a Pain in My Heart!

 
Doctor, I Have a Pain in My Heart!
Love and heartbreak can affect your health
 
There's a strong connection between love and health, and we don't talk about it very much.   It's not made in the doctor's office, where patients compete with computers for their doctor’s attention while going through a list of obligatory questions like "do you smoke" or "do you wear a seat belt?" When's the last time a doctor asked you who you loved and who loved you? I'll bet never.
 
Broken hearts can lead to fractured minds. This news hasn't made it into DSM 5, the psychiatric bible, because the words and music that describe the internal experience of love and loss don't fit in with the "evidence-based template" that has come to dominate our search for what ails us.  But some large truths are hidden in plain sight - in this case, in the words and the music we love.
 
There's that aptly named genre we call "The Blues," which makes the connection between loss of love, mental anguish and depression.  A pithy example: "Yeah, when the train left the station. It had two lights on behind. Whoa, the blue light was my baby. And the red light was my mind. All my love was in vain." Robert Johnson, “Love in Vain Blues”. 
 
Or: "Oh help me please Doctor I'm damaged, there's a pain where there once was a heart.."
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Dear Doctor."
 
Conversely, when your mind has been fractured it's hard to love again. Or in today's parlance, “relationship problems”. That's in the music, too.  Example: "What do you get when you fall in love? You only get lies and pain and sorrow. So far at least until tomorrow. I'll never fall in love again."  Hal David. 
 
We've all got our love stories. They begin when we're born, and they're all variations on a human theme. When our hearts are broken, which they inevitably are, our minds can be injured, too. This often occurs in ways that we can't see, resulting in symptoms of all shapes and sizes, from gastrointestinal distress to road rage. These are gateway problems into the health care system, and often into my office.
 
Often these symptoms become obstacles to pursuing what Sigmund Freud and John Lennon (among countless others) knew we needed most of all- “that crazy thing called love”. But it's hard to heal a broken heart if you don't speak the language of the heart.  That’s where a therapist who speaks that language can be a real help getting you back on your feet. Sure it takes work, but if you try some time, you just might find (thank you Mick Jagger) “you get what you need”.  Happy Valentine’s Day. 
 
Neal Spira MD is a practicing psychoanalyst and Dean of the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago. He blogs at “A Deeper Look.”