The Silent Strain: Understanding the Health Consequences of Emotional Stress

6 min readJan 6, 2024
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“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

- William James

In a television series, a husband and wife found themselves in a tense situation when disagreements arose over financial matters. The husband, in a fit of anger or frustration, refused to open the door for his wife, leaving her outside for several hours. Despite her pleas to enter, he remained adamant. The prolonged stress and emotional strain took a toll on the wife, and eventually, she fainted. Subsequently, she was rushed to the hospital where medical examinations revealed that she had experienced a minor heart attack triggered by the highly stressful circumstances she had endured.

According to the situation, it seems to involve a high level of emotional stress, which can contribute to a condition known as “stress-induced cardiomyopathy” or “broken heart syndrome.” This condition is characterized by sudden and intense emotional or physical stress that leads to a temporary disruption of the heart’s normal functioning. It can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.

Possible factors contributing to this stress-induced episode could include:

Emotional Stress: Prolonged emotional distress, such as arguments, relationship conflicts, or extreme emotions, can trigger the release of stress hormones that affect the heart.

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Physical Response to Stress: The body’s response to stress involves the release of hormones like adrenaline, which can impact the cardiovascular system and potentially lead to heart-related symptoms.

Vasospasm: Stress may also cause the blood vessels supplying the heart to constrict (vasospasm), reducing blood flow and leading to symptoms similar to those of a heart attack.

In medical terms, this condition might be referred to as “stress-induced cardiomyopathy” or “Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.” It is characterized by a reversible weakening of the heart muscle, often triggered by acute emotional or physical stress. The symptoms can mimic a heart attack, including chest pain, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, fainting.

It’s important to note that while stress-induced cardiomyopathy is a real medical phenomenon, it’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. The management may involve addressing the underlying stressors, counselling, and supportive medical care. This part of the exercise is ignored by most of us and it is also the fact the we do not take things seriously and never go for regular medical check-ups.

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Some potential reasons for a heart attack in someone who is otherwise healthy might include:

Genetic Factors: Family history plays a crucial role in heart health. Even if someone maintains a healthy lifestyle, genetic predispositions can increase the risk of heart-related issues.

Age: The risk of heart disease increases with age, and being old age may be a significant factor.

Underlying Health Conditions: Certain health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol, can contribute to the risk of heart attacks.

Stress and Lifestyle Changes: External stressors, lifestyle changes, or environmental factors can affect heart health. Stress, in particular, can impact the cardiovascular system.

Undetected Health Issues: Even with regular exercise and a healthy diet, there might be undetected health issues that contribute to heart problems.

Inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the body can contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Each of us must work closely with healthcare professionals to determine the specific factors that may have contributed to the heart attack. They may need further assessments, such as additional medical tests and evaluations, to identify underlying conditions or risk factors. Following the advice of healthcare providers, making necessary lifestyle changes, and adhering to prescribed medications can help manage and reduce the risk of future cardiac events.

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Undesirable Behavior Patterns

Frequently, in our interactions with those closest to us, we inadvertently subject one another to the sting of harsh words or unwarranted behaviours. These exchanges can be so emotionally charged that they give rise to stressful situations, hindering our mental capacity to effectively carry out subsequent tasks. The impact of these verbal and behavioural exchanges can be profound, creating mental blocks that impede our ability to perform well in various aspects of life.

Regrettably, such situations can escalate to the point where relationships become strained, and in extreme cases, people may choose to part ways. The enduring effects of these exchanges can extend beyond the immediate moment, influencing not only the individuals involved but also the dynamics of their relationships.

It is imperative to recognize the potential consequences of our words and actions, as they hold the power to shape the emotional well-being of those around us. Developing effective communication skills, empathy, and a heightened awareness of the impact our behaviour can have on others are essential steps toward fostering healthier and more resilient relationships. By cultivating a culture of understanding and constructive dialogue, we can work to mitigate the negative repercussions of interpersonal conflicts and strengthen the bonds that connect us.

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Possible Remedies

Addressing harsh words, stressful situations, or undesirable behaviours in relationships requires a thoughtful and proactive approach. Here are some remedies to consider:

Effective Communication:

Foster open and honest communication to express feelings, concerns, and expectations.

Use “I” statements to convey emotions without sounding accusatory. For example, say “I feel hurt when…” instead of “You always…”

Listen actively to the other person’s perspective, showing empathy and understanding.


Take time to reflect on your own words and actions. Recognize and acknowledge any hurtful behaviour.

Consider the impact of your words before expressing them, aiming for constructive communication.


Put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand their feelings and viewpoints.

Acknowledge the emotions of both parties, creating a foundation for mutual understanding.

Conflict Resolution:

Approach conflicts to find solutions rather than place blame.

Seek compromise and common ground, emphasizing the importance of the relationship.

Establish Boundaries:

Clearly define and communicate personal boundaries within the relationship.

Respect each other’s space and individuality, fostering a sense of autonomy.

Counselling or Therapy:

Consider professional counselling or therapy to facilitate open communication and address deeper issues.

Relationship counselling can provide a neutral space for both parties to express themselves and work through challenges.

Apologize and Forgive:

Offer sincere apologies when necessary, acknowledging any hurt caused.

Practice forgiveness to let go of resentment and move forward together.

Mindfulness and Stress Management:

Practice mindfulness techniques to stay present and avoid impulsive reactions.

Incorporate stress management strategies, such as deep breathing or meditation, to cope with difficult situations.

Educational Resources:

Seek out resources on effective communication, conflict resolution, and relationship building.

Attend workshops or read books together to gain insights into healthier relationship dynamics.

Continuous Improvement:

Approach relationship challenges as opportunities for growth and continuous improvement.

Commit to learning from past experiences and evolving as individuals and partners.

Remember that addressing relationship issues requires effort from both parties. Building and maintaining healthy relationships involve ongoing communication, empathy, and a willingness to work together to overcome challenges. If the situation persists or becomes overwhelming, seeking professional help is a viable option.

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1. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time, your attention, and your love.

2. The art of living is to find joy in the journey, peace in the present, and love in every heartbeat.

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Former aircraft engineer IAF, Retired Branch Manager SBI, Psychologist, Best Selling Author & Armed Forces Recruitment Trainer