Tag Archives: Mental health

More drugs, less talk for post-heart attack depression?

11 Dec

Pill Box

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

We know that many heart patients (like me, for example), experience some degree of situational depression immediately following a cardiac event. When we seek help, that help is far more likely to come as a prescription for an antidepressant drug rather than a referral to a professional for talk therapy. In fact, talk therapy – either by itself or in combination with medication – is actually on the decline(1) while the rate of antidepressant use has increased by almost 400% in the past two decades.(2)

This is important, because we also know from 2015 research on depression published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that, for most people, there is no statistically significant difference in effectiveness between talk therapy and taking drugs.(3) When researchers tracked treatment outcomes for those suffering from depression, they found patients responded equally to either treatment. So why hasn’t the rate of talk therapy gone up by 400%, too? Continue reading

How expecting recovery can help heart attack survivors

25 May

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Because I’m a ridiculously early riser most days, I often find myself in the kitchen listening to those pre-dawn overseas radio broadcasts from the BBC or Deutsche Welle or Radio Australia while making my morning coffee. The latter gripped my bean-grinding attention at about 4:45 one morning recently when host Natasha Mitchell was interviewing clinical psychologist Dr. Richard Bryant.

Their conversation aired on her award-winning program on mental health issues, All In The Mind. Their topic, psychological debriefing to help Australia’s traumatized flood victims, contained many unexpected  gems for those of us who have gone through other forms of traumatic events – like surviving a heart attack.

Continue reading

Why we keep telling – and re-telling – our heart attack stories

21 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

A woman in the grocery store calls out from the neighbouring checkout line: “Hey! You’re the heart lady, right?” She continues, in what seems a much-too-loud voice, that she had been in the audience at one of my annual Cardiac Café presentations at the university. But “heart lady?” Is this really how I want to be known and recognized for the rest of my natural life?   Continue reading

“Catastrophizing” – why we feel sicker than we actually are

5 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas

It’s distressingly common in cardiac circles to run into people who don’t have heart disease, but who are very certain that they do. When I first heard some of their stories, I suspected that these people are being misdiagnosed, but the reality may instead be that there’s no heart disease here at all.

This scenario came up recently with a woman with few if any cardiac symptoms, no definitive test results, and very little reason for believing she might have a heart condition. Yet she was so utterly convinced a heart attack was imminent that she described feeling like a “ticking time bomb”. A fellow heart attack survivor, far braver than I, suggested to this woman that she might be experiencing a phenomenon called catastrophizing.   Continue reading

“I’m not depressed!” – and other ways we deny the stigma of mental illness after a heart attack

7 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

“This is the most thorough review article I have seen on psychological interventions after heart events,” writes cardiac psychologist Dr. Stephen Parker* about a U.K. study on heart patients. And he should know. Dr. Steve is also a heart attack survivor himself who has explored his own profound experiences with the depression and anxiety that commonly accompany any cardiac event.

The study, reported in the British Journal of Cardiology in July 2010, followed over 400 London heart patients for two years – of whom at least half showed symptoms of anxiety or depression when first interviewed.  But the study authors described their participants in this way:

“Many of these heart patients were reluctant to accept a diagnosis of anxiety or depression and expressed reservations to the clinical psychologist by rejecting the term ‘depression’ for describing their problems, or by expressing negative views about attending a mental health service for treatment.”

In fact, these ‘negative views’ associated with the stigma of having mental health problems were so strong that all psychological interventions studied were provided to heart patients as part of a scheduled Cardiac Rehabilitation program at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London – instead of at a mental health facility.   Continue reading