Mental health after heart attack - British Heart Fou...

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Mental health after heart attack


Does anyone have any experience of delayed reaction post HA & stent procedure? Six months on and my partner appears to be self soothing with alcohol having previously not drunk before. He is on the usual heart meds. Is becoming withdrawn into own world, irritable and non communicative. Have tried talking about it but get told to myob. In short there seems to have been a complete personality change and obsessive behaviour traits. I wonder if its some sort of complex PTSD reoccurring as prior to HA this was diagnosed but many years ago? Its very difficult to know what to do as mood changes are frequent ... I can understand the massive impact of the HA and procedure and want to do something to help/ support but at this rate I fear he is on road to another event or a breakdown. Refuses to go to Dr and they say to me they cant do anything. Ive tried ignoring it, but its just getting more entrenched.

Do others have this experience and if so has anything worked to help you support your loved one?

21 Replies
MichaelJHHeart Star

Sorry no direct experience. However, when I was at rehab they were also offering support. I may be wrong but is seemed to me that those who were well and experienced a cardiac event were more likely to experience depression or other mental health issues than those whose treatment (bypass, stents, AVR, etc.) were planned weeks/months ahead. Did he go through rehab?

Hope200 in reply to MichaelJH

Hi and thanks for reply. Yes he did go to rehab. He was the youngest there and didnt particularly like the group approach but went all the same. He missed one week which I think may have been about stress! He sees such topics as a weakness if you’re a male! He was ok immediatly afterwards and following advice but 3 months later things have changed ...its as though its a delayed response. He does keep mentioning he thinks he has alzheimers/ ‘something wrong with my brain’ ref to in part that he feels he has develped memory problems.....possible this is partly why hes drinking alcohol but I worry about the effect it has on his medication and then on him. Of course alcohol is a depressant so its difficult to know if its partly the cause of mood differences. If I try to suggest anything he becomes quite agitated with me!

MichaelJHHeart Star in reply to Hope200

This is a tricky one as you should only drink alcohol with the go-ahead of your GP/cardiologist. Then this should be within the guidelines otherwise it could interfere with BP/cholesterol/anticoagulant/blood thinning medication. If he is drinking quite heavily this could be contributing to his memory issues. CBT therapy may be appropriate to change his mindset.

Hope200 in reply to MichaelJH

Thanks Michael...I think next time I see him with a drink or about to buy, I’ll mention in as tactful way as possible( !) that alcohol can affect memory. I wonder if you might have a useful web link for this ...pehaps I can show him?

Also do you know how it impacts on his heart meds?

Grateful for your advice and time

MichaelJHHeart Star in reply to Hope200

I will see if I can find a reputable web link as I have to go out now. Beware of Doctor Google as there is a lot of rubbish out there with people pushing their own agendas.

Basically drinking over the recommended limits could increase both BP and cholesterol, and thin the blood too far. The latter could cause a serious bleed!

He has survived a HA and has a second chance. It would be sad to waste it!

Keith27 in reply to Hope200

Hi Hope200, have you looked at the BHF website? Under the main menu there is a lot of information under ‘Information and Support’. You can then select Conditions and/or Support for a guide on Health and Emotional support. A lot of the guides are also available in BHF shops.

You can also sign up to receive the BHF magazine Heart Matters, for free. I have found this to be really helpful.

Hope this is of some help.


jimmyq in reply to Hope200

Some of his medication may be affecting his memory. I felt as though I was getting Alzheimers and did a test that indicated I was at risk. I have done the same test since coming off all the meds and my score improved massively. Read the side effects bits in the leaflets that come with his meds.

I agree with Michael, there is often a significant emotional difference between those people who have a heart operation following a test, and those that have the same operation following a heart attack.

I've talked at length about this with my wife who is a counsellor. Her father had a heart bypass operation and became quite withdrawn for many months afterwards. When I had a bypass she was worried I'd be the same, and yet I was unaffected emotionally. The difference was probably that her father had a serious heart attack but I didn't.

My wife compared the after effect of a heart attack in some people to PTSD, and she gave a very useful description. Imagine if you had a heart attack, afterwards you'll be on super heightened alert for any symptoms that may hint at another episode.

If you focussed intensely on your heart and your chest for just a few hours you'd almost certainly detect multiple little twinges, however you filter those sensations out so you're not even aware of them. But your husband is acutely aware, and every one probably makes him uneasy and apprehensive. He won't tell you because he gets several each day, maybe several each hour, and he suspects you'd think he's just being irrational. Furthermore, when he does get a twinge it commands his total attention, he doesn't want to talk or play with the kids or watch TV, he just wants to focus intensely on this twinge that, in his mind, might be the signal that something awful is happening.

I don't think there is a simple solution. It will take time before your husband regains confidence that his own body isn't about to let him down. If he can focus on practical self help like positive lifestyle changes that may distract him. And if you can steer him towards solid evidence that most people recover well from heart attacks that may bolster his confidence. Alternatively you could see if there is a community counselling option where you live, or you might call one of the cardiac nurses at the BHF helpline to see if they have any advice.

Hope200 in reply to Chappychap

Thank you for responding in such detail ...helps to understand what could be going on and i agree with the points you and others are making about differences between the planned and urgent interventions. It seems that though the rehab prog is valuable perhaps follow ups in the first 18 months would be good to capture those whove had a delayed response rather than a quick discharge one sessions are completed.

Will try your suggestions.

Thank you

Hi Hope

I can only talk from personal circumstances, but my mental health & mood is worse now, than at any point in the six months since my heart attack. The reason is because I don't feel any better & I'm only 43 so if this is now life, it sucks.

That's the feelings that bring me down in a nutshell, obviously it is more complicated, constant small chest pains & 'feelings', not trusting doctors anymore, not having a clue what my HA felt like even though the Doctor insists that I should or what Angina feels like, having 'other' symptoms & illnesses & worse of all people thinking I am now better because I'm still alive 6 months later.

My rehab didn't go well, but I have been referred to a specialist in Mental Health ( shame I had to wait 20 years & have a heart attack ) but this is taking months on a waiting list to arrange. My Rehab was at home as I couldn't get to the group one, but my nurse was outstanding.

Your husband may be feeling the same as I am, 'if this is now life, you can keep it'. But deep inside he knows that's selfish & either you or a MH professional will need to try & find the reason he feels like this. My rehab nurse, thinks my pains, fatigue, which are changing my poor daily mental state are Medication induced, but I don't trust my Doctor, so we are working on a way to get the tests I need.

The only suggestion I have is to try & talk to your husband as to if he is still feeling pain or aches & if he's using alcohol to dumb it. If so, try & get him to see his GP & explain that's what he's doing, pretty sure his GP will take notice of him then. Mine just wants to refer me elsewhere before he has even examined me.

Good luck to him, I hope he finds a better way through it.

Hope200 in reply to Malgail

Thanks Malgail for your thoughtful reply. Im sorry to hear you feel like this and hope you get some help with it. Its good to hear that you will accept a referral ...something my H will not! The situation re waiting list is just awful though ...i know others that have been caught in this.

Its helped me to read your reply and thanks for that suggestion.

Hope things improve for you. Take care.

We all react differently. I had a heart attack just over two years ago, it didn't bother me one bit, I was more bothered by aspirin and statin allergies, they made me feel ill. I have done all the exercises and more. I am 84 so probably really grateful for being up and about.

Yasyass in reply to Rosei

I am so happy for u I think it’s a person mind strength and how they can cope for me personally I fear about everything I try not to but anxiety kp crawl back in I too do not like meds and alwaz wonder if they will do worse

My husband became very depressed after his heart episode (he has had several plus type 2 diabetes . ) He was moody, snappy ,overeating over training and making himself worse.He was avoiding follow up appointments too. He had been a fitness professional and always in the gym.It is like he cannot accept that his body is letting him down and is in denial or too scared to think about it.

I have been at my wits end and anxious too as I feel frightened all the time, powerless to help and angry. I joined this so I could understand better .

I have been plugging away, getting out and about, walking, being more positive , taking on his organisational things etc

He has turned a bit of a corner now and has lost some weight, got a new job in a more positive environment so I am keeping my fingers crossed. It is very complicated , I certainly feel that counselling should be offered

Good luck

I can empathise! I understand many people report feelings of depression post ha, but the subject doesn’t seem to be researched much.

There does appear to be evidence that statins can have an impact on one’s mental facilities (people speak of ‘brain fog ‘ - my brother noted this) and memory probs are noted as a side effect here

Best wishes to you both.

Get him to read these pages

Hi Hope200. I can only comment from my experiences with hubby. I've got to say that this forum has been a life saver, both pre op and post op (he had a quad bypass in November).

He was forgetful and go so annoyed he couldn't put a sentence together in the first few weeks after the op. He became depressed and withdrawn as "this shouldn't be happening to me".

He wouldn't go to the doctors for any help or advice as he said he could sort himself out.

I can only agree with Twobells. Let your hubby have a look at the comments here (assuming he's not going to blow his top that you've posted something!!).

I reluctantly showed my hubby many of the posts relating to my questions and pleas for help!

That just showed him that I too was struggling and wanted him to get better physically and mentally. It worked!!

Good luck to you and your man. xxxx

I have ptsd due to my heart condition and counselling is helping me.

After my HA I changed completely. I could be triggered to rage in seconds and like many was concerned that every twinge was the start of another HA. I was not helped by others though. As a partner you have to careful that you do not add to their anxiety. By constantly fussing and asking questions just adds to the problems they are facing and is not seen as caring but nagging and pressurising. This may not be the case with you but it is how I felt. In the end I sort counselling and was told I had a sort of PTSD brought on probably by seeing my mortality. Your partner if they are anything like me have to be able to see they need help by themselves others will not help by telling them that necessarily. But once at counselling they can unburden with someone who is unquestioning and does not judge push or urge. That's how it was for me. The HA changed me mentally. The counselling changed me also. Didn't changed me back to the old me but gave me tools to cope with the new me. I will never be the old me and to be honest I don't want to be. So be supportive but don't be pushy and questioning and judgmental. Just be there. Very hard I can imagine but they are alone with their HA and subsequent illness and just want a way out without being a burden on others and show that they are coping when they are not.

Hi there. I had stents out of the blue - I'm relatively young and had always been pretty healthy so it was a huge huge shock mentally. I became very irritable and angry, which wasn't great for my young son. The biggest issue I had was feeling that I'd lost my identity - I wasn't who I thought I'd been. And I've found suddenly having to take lots of meds has taken quite a toll on my body. I've been in Counselling which has helped no end but I still got depressed (at about the six months mark). Strangely enough a paramedic told me recently that heart meds followed by anti depressants six months down the line is very common) - I found that reassuring. I'm now nearly a year in and am more comfortable with what's happened to me now. Life is still hard, mostly to do with the meds, but I'm doing OK. The counselling really helped me make sense of what's happened to me. There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but I can appreciate how hard it must be for you to see him this way and how helpless it can make you feel. Keep encouraging him to seek help.... I'm sure he can't enjoy feeling so unhappy. These things can turn around but they take time and a lot of hard work, which can be difficult. It's worth it in the end though. And don't forget to look after yourself too... This thing has had a huge impact on both of you. Take care x

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