How a heart attack can trigger PTSD

 by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

This guest post was originally posted online by Holly Strawbridge of Harvard Health Publications on June 25, 2012.

Joep Roosen Amsterdam A heart attack is a life-changing event. For some people, surviving a heart attack brings renewed appreciation for life. For others, the event is so traumatic that worrying about having a second heart attack consumes their lives.

By the latest account, one in eight heart attack survivors experiences a reaction called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although PTSD is usually associated with extreme trauma such as war, rape or a natural disaster, heart attack survivors can experience the same key symptoms: flashbacks that occur as nightmares or intrusive thoughts. As a result, the survivor actively tries to avoid being reminded of the event and becomes hyper-vigilant worrying that it will happen again.  

It’s a high price to pay for having your life spared.   Continue reading “How a heart attack can trigger PTSD”

Having a heart attack? Call 911 – and pack your Tetris game

by Carolyn Thomas

I confess that there was a time when I was ever so slightly addicted to playing the computer puzzle game Tetris.  Like many parents, I discovered it through my children during their early teen years.  Back then, I was known to occasionally “borrow” their little Gameboy and then stay up until 2 a.m. playing “just one more game” while trying to beat my previous best score. But U.K. researchers tell us that time-wasters like Tetris or other so-called “distractor tasks” might very well help to minimize the psychological effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

We know that heart attack survivors have a disturbingly high incidence of undiagnosed PTSD.  Research reported in the British Journal of Health Psychology suggests, for example, that as many as 16% of cardiac survivors actually meet clinical criteria for acute PTSD, and a further 18% report moderate to severe PTSD symptoms.

So if distractor tasks such as playing an obsessively distracting computer puzzle game like Tetris can successfully help to treat PTSD in those affected by combat exposure, could playing Tetris also help heart attack survivors?   Continue reading “Having a heart attack? Call 911 – and pack your Tetris game”