An article on the New York Times wellness blog said heart attacks may have dramatic consequences for your mental health, including developing post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD after heart attack.
“The emotional toll of a heart attack can be so severe that an estimated 1 in 8 patients who survive the experience develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that doubles the risk of dying of a second heart attack, according to new research,” the article said.
Marshfield Clinic cardiologist Dr. Shereif Rezkalla said he does see patients that battle mental health issues, such as PTSD, after a heart attack.
“The literature suggests you can have fairly significant anxiety in about 25-30 percent of post-heart attack patients,” Rezkalla said. “Emotional issues can be seen a year or more after the heart attack.”
Why mental health issues arise after a heart attack
Rezkalla pointed to a couple factors that may create the emotional trauma that comes with a heart attack. One factor is the suddenness with which heart attacks can occur. Another factor is how dramatically a heart attack can change a person’s life, as they may need surgery or have to make major lifestyle changes.
“I think more should be done to address the mental health component of a heart attack when the patient is in the rehabilitation phase,” Rezkalla said. “Understanding the patient’s perspective, and discussing the potential mental health issues after a heart attack with the patient, is important.”
Talk with your care team
Rezkalla said by having a discussion with patients, a cardiologist can decide if a referral to behavioral health is appropriate. He added that a patient’s primary care provider may be better equipped than a cardiologist to determine if the patient is in need of a referral to behavioral health.
Rezkalla said some patients do not want to discuss mental health issues, and if that is the case, the patient’s family can play an important role in bringing that discussion to the attention of care providers.
“The emotional component of such an event can be pretty devastating,” Rezkalla said. “Patients should not hesitate to contact their primary care physicians, their cardiology team or their behavioral health provider if they have one already.”
If you or a family member is experiencing mental health effects after a heart attack, talk with a primary care provider.
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I'm a totally disabled Vietnam Veteran suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD. While there is no cure for me, I have found stability with treatment and support. If I survive a heart attack, will my situation "reset" making me start over? However, I am fortunate enough to have this system in place, in case a heart attack occurs and I survive. From my own struggle I have to support for immediate mental health screening to "nip in the bud" any depression or PTSD that my result from this trauma. With immediate treatment this situation can be short lived. Untreated, it can be fatal. Mental health issues & treatment are only now being addressed by including them with health insurance policies. It should be available, accepted, and supported to return the individual to as good a health as possible.
When my husband had his first CABG( of 2) ( age 49, dynamic successful attorney)in 1990 I dragged him to a psychologist as I suspected he would need thic care ( not included in cardiac rehab program then). He did the same,willingly after CABG # 2 8 yrs later. Great help!!! Now at 75 he is happy and healthy mentally n physically ( as am I! ). I have recommended this to all since then