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PTSD Can Slow Recovery From Heart Disease

Many may be surprised to learn that Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) is not limited to a return from duty or after the witness of a horrifying event. In fact, PTSD can occur after a dramatic or life-changing health event such as a heart attack, stroke or head injury.

As reported in this month’s Harvard Health Letter, the emotional and psychological distress accompanying PTSD can slow recovery and even exacerbate the progression of heart disease.

A special problem of heart-related PTSD is that the trauma comes from within. Sufferers are constantly on the alert for signs of an impending heart attack, such as a racing heart or shortness of breath.

The trouble is, these are also normal responses to physical activity or stress. Some people with heart-related PTSD go to great lengths to avoid these reminders—they stop climbing stairs, making love, or doing other activities that make the heart beat faster. Some stop taking medications that remind them of the heart attack.

Four questions can help identify PTSD:
• Do you think about the event when you don’t want to?
• Do you avoid situations, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of it?
• Do you feel constantly on alert?
• Are you feeling detached from family and friends?

Treatment of PTSD often begins with talk therapy that aims to help a person come to terms with a traumatic event by conjuring up memories of it in a safe situation. Reconnecting with people, interests, and activities is another goal of therapy. Some people also benefit from taking an antidepressant.

The bottom line: Recognizing the signs of PTSD and getting help will be good for your heart, your health, and your life.

Source: Havard Health Letter

PTSD Can Slow Recovery From Heart Disease

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). PTSD Can Slow Recovery From Heart Disease. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.