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