Overprotective parents may impact heart anxiety in adults with congenital heart conditions

September 15, 2010

Adults with congenital heart disease are more likely to suffer heart-focused anxiety - a fear of heart-related symptoms and sensations - if their parents were overprotective during their childhood and adolescence. Dr. Lephuong Ong from Orion Health Services in Vancouver, and colleagues from University Health Network and York University in Toronto, Canada, suggest that health care professionals could encourage greater independence for adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease to improve their psychosocial adjustment. Dr. Ong's work is published online in Springer's International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Approximately one percent of all infants are born with congenital heart defects and over 90 percent of these children survive into adulthood, thanks to recent medical advances. As well as their medical condition, these patients face including anxiety, neurocognitive deficits, body image concerns and difficulties with relationships. Research suggests that levels of parental protection are likely to be higher in children with congenital heart disease compared with healthy children.

Ong and team investigated the relationship between patient recollections of parental overprotection - defined as intrusion, excessive contact, infantilization and prevention of independent behavior - and heart-focused anxiety in adults with congenital heart disease. The researchers assessed heart defect severity, heart-focused anxiety and perceived parental overprotection during childhood for a sub-sample of 192 adults participating in the study.

Their analyses showed that levels of heart-focused anxiety rose as levels of parental overprotection increased. Disease severity was also linked to higher levels. Surprisingly, levels of parental overprotection did not vary with disease severity.

The authors conclude: "Adults with , who report their parents as being overprotective, might have learned to form negative interpretations of their symptoms and use maladaptive coping behaviors, like avoidance and fearful responding, when experiencing cardiac symptoms or when faced with situations that trigger cardiac-related sensations. Clinicians could consider providing recommended activity guidelines for parents and their children to reduce limitations on activities that are deemed medically appropriate, to encourage independence among adolescents and young adults with congenital ."

More information: Ong L et al (2010). Parental overprotection and heart-focused anxiety in adults with congenital heart disease. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. DOI 10.1007/s12529-010-9112-y

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Dutch courage—Alcohol improves foreign language skills

October 18, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London, shows that bilingual speakers' ability to speak a second ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.