AFib, Meds, Mood and Anxiety

Since joining the forum, which I did when diagnosed recently with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, I've been increasingly aware of the number of people with AFib who suffer also with low mood, depression and anxiety disorders. As a psychotherapist working in the UK for the NHS and specialising in treating people with mood and anxiety disorders, I thought it might be helpful to others to share some thoughts.

AFib is a worrying condition! If affects our hearts and logically we worry, however it is manageable and is rarely if ever life threatening. The best way to manage this type of anxiety is to (1) understand the condition and (2) learn some psychological coping strategies - CBT is great for this!

Being in AFib can feel like being anxious and like having a panic attack - and this can then lead to anxiety and panic on top of AFib! Again knowledge and CBT techniques can help, as can Mindfulness based therapies.

Many of the drugs prescribed to manage our condition can actually lead us to feeling low, lethargic and even depressed. It is important to realise this and to talk with your GP about these well documented side effects.

Having a long term health condition like AFib makes us much more likely to suffer from depression. Being depressed is a truly awful condition as it robs us of all of our motivation and joy for life and can leave people feeling suicidal. If you feel like this, you need help! Some people fair well on antidepressants others prefer therapy. The NHS recommends both. If you decide to seek some form of talking therapy, look for a therapist who understands your AFib as well as your depression. The most effective therapies are:

CBT: this helps you deal with your negative thoughts and behaviours which drive depression.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy: this helps you assess your relationships in terms of those which help and those that cause depression and is especially good at treating depression associated with life changes as it helps us adjust to new challenges - such as those we face living with AFib.

Mindfulness Techniques: these don't treat depression but are great once you are well on the way to recovery.

Best advice I can offer, is always to build a healthy, open and trusting relationship with your GP - never be afraid to sack your GP if they don't support you! Above all remember two things (1) nothing changes if nothing changes and (2) Don't let AFib, depression, anxiety or any other disorder define who you are!

6 Replies

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  • Great post Marky, Thank you. A good mantra is AF may be in my life but it is NOT all of my life.

  • Thank you for sharing this Mark, AF Association has produced an information sheet on CBT which may be of interest. It is available from the following link: heartrhythmalliance.org/fil...

  • Excellent info sheet which I've just shared with my IAPT colleagues in the East Midlands. Many thanks.

    Mark

  • Amen to all of that! I discovered anxiety/ depression to b harder to wrestle with that the a fib. Now, 7 mo after diagnosis, changing docs, losing wt, eating healthy, learning mindfullness meditation.... Can finally say I feel great, a fib monster hasnt shown its ugly head up in 3 mo(thankyou God), if it does, I feel more equipped to deal with it. Im in America, sadly, have had to figure all this out myself until a lovely EP that I switched to 2 mo ago gave me a long talk aboit lifestyle changes. Im a real believer in taking charge of my health now, not allowing a fib to drive my bus.

  • Markysmith

    Have just read your post, discussion the anxiety and depression associated with Afib.

    Thank you for the calmness that your advice offers. It's the panic when an attack starts that scares me so much.

    And I feel such a nuisance to my family. I ve only been recently diagnosed and it seems to have turned my life upside down!

    Thank u again for your calm approach to this thing that it AF.

  • Thank you Markysmith I can fully agree with that, I am lucky to be married to someone who was a psycotheraputic councellor and I try to follow his advice about depression, panic and anxiety attacks. My problem is the panic/anxiety attacks come with no warning and I find myself crying/confused in the middle of supermarkets or anywhere. He just calms me down and talks me round. I went for assessment to have councelling and the person doing the assessment told me I dont need councelling I need someone to talk to She put me on a stress management course but I learned nothing new to what I learned in the 60s to cope with Asthma attacks. I have been in AF since Oct 2014, I have been better since I was put on 360mg Diltiezem in April. Its early days yet I know, but I totally agree with you. Lynn.

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