Post-traumatic stress disorder
is not just for veterans and victims of rape, based on a groundbreaking new research. According to the study, which was published in the journal PLoS One
, approximately 1 in 8 patients who suffer from a heart attack also develop PTSD. That means that out of the 1.4 million people in the United States that suffer from cardiac arrest each year, around 168,000 of them will develop significant PTSD symptoms.
But that’s not the end of it. Things get even worse for heart attack survivors with PTSD as the stress disorder doubles the likelihood of another heart attack or dying within a few short years. Why Does This Occur?
Until now, post-care for heart attack patients
meant meeting with a heart specialist, not a therapist or psychologist. This new analysis shows that just like other traumatic events such as war, having a heart attack causes one to experience the very real threat of death and can make you feel out of control. This helplessness can lead into PTSD if the conditions are right.
For example, imagine sleeping soundly when you suddenly feel an intense, excruciating pain in your chest. Before you know it, you are being strapped down on a gurney and having tests administered while you frantically worry for your life. That scenario can shake down anyone's
emotional state of being, for certain. Recurring nightmares of the actual attack, thoughts of dying, and elevated blood pressure are just a few signals that show PTSD is developing.
No one really knows yet why developing PTSD means a higher chance of death among heart attack patients; but one theory believes it’s because PTSD significantly increases activity in the automatic nervous system and causes inflammation
in the body. This inflammation can lead to clogged arteries, which is linked with heart disease.
The study showed that there is no link between how severe the heart attack is and the chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead, the risk of PTSD was associated with the patient's subjective experience. A patient who suffers from a physically painful heart attack or who was already going through tough life events may be more prone to PTSD, while someone who barely feels any pain (and could be having a more severe heart attack) might not worry as much. Another factor is age; younger patients must face their mortality earlier than normal, and this might jar unwanted emotions that could later develop into PTSD. What Can Be Done?
Cardiologists are now becoming increasingly more aware of the emotional toll that heart attacks place on patients, and are taking the right steps to treat it. In addition to meeting with heart specialists on a regular basis, many also schedule their patients to meet with therapists to talk about their feelings and sort out their emotions. It's a safe, effective way to prevent further heart attacks from happening, and when coupled with the additional support from a patient's family and friends, can significantly increase their will to live, reduce stress, and ultimately improve their prognosis.
Curley, Ann. "PTSD Strikes One in Eight Heart Attack Patients." CNN.com
. CNN Health, 20 June 2012. Web. 29 June 2012. <http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/20/ptsd-strikes-one-in-eight-heart-attack-patients/>.
Mahand, Jennifer. "Heart Attacks and PTSD: A Vicious Cycle." ABCNews.com
. ABC News, 20 June 2012. Web. 29 June 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/heart-attacks-lead-ptsd/story?id=16613231#.T_HgGfXheho>.
Parker-Pope, Tara. "Heart Attack Survivors May Develop P.T.S.D." NYTimes.com
. The New York Times, 20 June 2012. Web. 29 June 2012. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/stress-disorder-pervasive-after-heart-attack-study-finds/>.
Crees, Alex. "PTSD Prevalent Among Heart Attack Patients, Study Finds." FoxNews.com
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