Tag Archives: post traumatic stress disorder

The delayed ‘Trauma Drama’ of heart disease

26 Feb

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Summer Ash is a self-professed space cadet. She’s an astrophysicist at Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy in New York City, where she serves as the Director of Outreach. Five years ago, she underwent open heart surgery after she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm (that’s when the tissue of the aorta balloons out dangerously). This condition was likely linked to a congenital heart defect Summer was born with called a bicuspid aortic valve. About 99% of people, she explains, are born with a normal tricuspid aortic valve (meaning three leaflets in the valve), but she was one of the 1% born with only two. With her kind permission, I’m running her story here as it was originally published in 2014 on her blog, Defective Heart Girl Problems.
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Yale Heart Study asks why we wait so long before seeking help in mid-heart attack

17 Nov

Did you know that even when experiencing textbook heart attack symptoms (like my own chest and left arm pain), people wait an average of four hours before seeking medical help?  The tragic irony is that heart patients who do best are those who can be treated within the first hour of those initial acute symptoms.

Heart attacks are dangerous and scary – so why do so many of us suffer silently for hours (and in many cases, far longer?)  This treatment-seeking delay behaviour concerns many researchers, including Yale University’s Dr. Angelo Alonzo. He told me:

“Ask people what they would do if they had a heart attack and, of course, they’d all  insist they would seek care immediately.  Sounds easy!  But in reality, few people actually do drop everything to get help.”    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.

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Why hearing the diagnosis can hurt worse than the heart attack

18 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters


Researchers in the U.K. have found that heart attack survivors have a disturbingly high incidence of undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Terrifying symptoms, invasive procedures, and a life-altering diagnosis of heart disease can inflict profound psychological stress.

But interestingly, it’s the part about hearing the diagnosis that may actually be the most traumatic for us, regardless of the severity of our heart damage or required medical intervention.  Continue reading

How we adapt after a heart attack may depend on what we believe this diagnosis means

25 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are at least 12 commonly used measurement tools available to the medical profession that look at how patients navigate “the search for meaning in chronic illness”. Clinical tools like the Psychosocial Adjustment To Illness Inventory or the Meaning of Illness Questionnaire have been used on cancer and AIDS patients, as well as others living with chronic disease. But a 2008 study found, alas, that limiting factors in the success of these tools included “the infrequent use of some of the instruments clinically or in research.”

I can’t help but wonder why these readily available assessment tools are not being administered routinely to patients who have been freshly diagnosed with heart disease – a serious medical crisis that begs to be examined for its influence on our “psychosocial adjustment” to it. I’ve only recently learned about these tools, more than two years after my own heart attack.

This lack of medical attention to the profound psychological impact of a cardiac event is significant. As Dr. Gilles Dupuis of the Université du Québec and the Montreal Heart Institute reported in the the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, post-traumatic stress disorder following heart attack is a largely under-diagnosed and unrecognized phenomenon that can actually put survivors at risk of another attack. Continue reading

A foreshortened future

27 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

Cardiac psychologist and heart attack survivor Dr. Stephen Parker recently described a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that rang a bell for him after his own cardiac event. The PTSD symptom is called “a sense of a foreshortened future“. In other words, after a traumatic event – in this case, a heart attack – the patient “does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span.”  As Dr. Steve tells his own story of this symptom:

“Three months after the heart attack, I went to Home Depot to buy something for the house. I walked inside, saw the plethora of nice things to make a nice house, and started feeling extremely depressed.

“What was the point? I knew I was going to die within a short time.   Continue reading