After exam stress, probably the most suicides in the country are caused by heartbreak, says psychiatrist Shyam Bhat, who shot to fame after Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone opened up about her struggle with depression in a TV interview over a year ago.
“More than 1.35 lakh people commit suicide in India every year and as many as 20,000 of them end their life because of heartbreak,” says Bhat, who has written a new book that looks at what happens to the human mind and body when faced with the extremely traumatic process.
The New Zealand-born MBBS doctor who set up a mental health practice in Bengaluru after stints in the UK and the US, says he took up the “frivolous” topic like love and heartbreak as a subject for his book because nobody expected a doctor to talk about it in a non-academic way.
Earlier this year he teamed up with Padukone to establish the Live Love Laugh Foundation, a comprehensive resource platform on depression, during whose launch a guest spoke about heartbreak, which Bhat says rang a bell.
“I found out that I was actually going around colleges and organisations and realised that heartbreak was something that only agony aunts were talking about and yet it causes deaths, and causes clinical depression in hundreds and thousands of people,” he says.
Coupled with his own experience of love and loss in his 20s, he attempts to write about the strange nature of an experience that even the most rational mind cannot seem to change.
His book ‘How to Heal Your Broken Heart: A Psychiatrist’s Guide to Dealing With Heartbreak,’, available on the Juggernaut app attempts to give insights to help one “become happier, stronger and more complete and in the future helps to love again and have a better relationship.”
About 40 per cent of Indians, says the doctor, carry a variant of the serotonin transporter gene, which makes them vulnerable to depression. “That means that 40 per cent of our country could suffer from depression if they experience significant emotional stress such as heartbreak,” Bhat writes.
Also, he says that men and women treat heartbreak differently.
“Although there isn’t enough data yet to make a conclusive observation but based on my own observations men are more susceptible to the effects heartbreak and thus depression than women.”
A general lack of affiliative tendencies of men, make them more prone to depression due to heartbreak.
“A breakup is probably worse for a man because men does not have affiliative tendencies. Women seek support from friends but many men get isolated and deal with heartbreak on their own … they alienate more people due to their anger, which is just a symptom of sadness,” says Bhat.
After asking the most important question of all, why does it hurt so much, the book takes the reader on the path of healing. Advice on diet, meditation and exercise apart from a FAQ that addresses the most important questions that Bhat gets from people who seek him out are also included in the book.
The 40-plus doctor and author wants the book to act as a tool to prevent tragedy and use the opportunity for transformation.
“That is the goal of the book. We know people are suffering so let us give some real advice based on research and real insights into how the bran mind and body are released to heartbreak and how you can find love again.”
More than young readers, the psychiatrist says he wants older persons to also benefit.
He terms heartbreak as a mysterious pain originating from the deepest reaches of the human being. “Our mind, our body and our soul, and when we learn to deal with heartbreak, both to heal and then to love again, we discover the best part of us,” he says.
Although heartbreak is associated with younger people, the psychiatrist has learned to take seriously the emotional experience, which he attributes is at the root of a great many emotional disturbances.
“I have seen people whose lives, after the end of a relationship, have spiraled out of control, degenerating into addictions, meaningless relationships and illnesses, battling loneliness and problems in their careers and, in the worst instances, ending in suicide,” he says.
Everything ultimately boils down to two emotions — love and fear, says the doctor who says the cynical nonchalant attitude to wards love and romance in adults who are in their 30s and 40s comes from having their hearts broken years ago.
“I actually would like to reach out to my older readers, those who don’t know they are heartbroken. Heartbreak does not mean that you are pining away it means that the heart is a little harder now,” he says.
Bhat, who is also an integrative medicine specialist recommends a holistic approach to getting over heartbreak with adequate diet, an exercise programmer that combines aerobics, breath exercises and yoga among other practices.