Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can You Die Of Heartbreak?

This fascinating article explores the question of whether intensely felt emotions (fear, grief, stress, even joy) can cause one to literally die. The scientific conventional wisdom insists that the answer is no, but to argue otherwise does not require a belief in the supernatural; all it demands is a recognition (which common sense makes hard to deny) that emotional states can have a significant impact on a human being's physical body. We already know that endorphins are released when we feel happiness or lust, facilitating many other unrelated cognitive and physiological processes; likewise, we know that a whole host of hormones come into effect when other extreme emotional states are entered, with physical side effects ranging from excessive perspiring and accelerated heart rate to nervous twitching and numbness. Who is to say that just the right (or in this case, wrong) set of emotions, when felt by an unusually hapless body, can't cause death?

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