Depression after heart attack: Threat perception has to be addressed

January 14, 2013

Patients who feel strongly threatened by their heart disease immediately after their heart attack have a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms. The data derived from this study can lead to better heart patient management.

"Survivors of heart attacks are three times more likely to develop depression during the first six months after their heart attack, than people with no heart disease. If left untreated this contributes to a worse prognosis, for instance further cardiac events and possibly death. The causes for this high prevalence of depression after heart attacks are still unclear," said Prof. Claus Vögele, Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Luxembourg and lead author of the publication entitled "Cardiac Threat Appraisal and Depression after First Myocardial Infarction".

Thirty-six cardiac patients were interviewed five to fifteen days after their first heart attack, six to eight weeks later, and again six months later. They were questioned on their level of fatigue, general health, disease-specific symptoms, work, and family.  Depression levels were assessed with questionnaires and clinical diagnoses were established using a structured, clinical interview. To investigate their individual ways of coping with this experience, patients were questioned on rumination, affiliation seeking, threat minimisation, information seeking, and seeking meaning in religion.

The findings are among the first to show that the way patients think about their heart attack has an immediate effect on the likelihood of developing depression. For example, if they continue to perceive their as a serious threat then they are more likely to experience depression, even weeks after the attack. On the other hand, if patients have ways to focus their thoughts on their recovery and know how to ask for support from their friends and family, then this risk for depression is much reduced.

"These results can be used to help patients to have a more positive outlook on life, even after such a dramatic and life-threatening event", said Prof. Vögele, who is head of a research group on Self-regulation and Health at the University of Luxembourg. " in the immediate time after the infarct, for instance during the first two weeks, may protect patients from developing depression, and thereby contribute to a smooth recovery." 

Explore further: Beating heart problems: How a combined group therapy helps depressed cardiac patients

More information: Vögele, C. et al., Cardiac threat appraisal and depression after first myocardial infarction. Frontiers in Psychology—Psychology for Clinical Settings (Special Issue on Psychocardiology), 3:365 (2012), pp. 1-12. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3465981/

Related Stories

Beating heart problems: How a combined group therapy helps depressed cardiac patients

August 29, 2011
Researchers from the Heart Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, have demonstrated the benefits of the 8-week 'Beating Heart Problems' group programme in a randomised controlled trial. According to Principal Research Fellow ...

IUPUI study first to look at early treatment of depression to reduce heart disease risk

May 24, 2011
Jesse Stewart, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and an Indiana University Center for Aging Research affiliated scientist, has received ...

Taking depression to heart

February 14, 2012
Mental state can play a crucial role in physical health — medical professionals have long known about the connection between anxiety and the immune system, for example. Now researchers at Tel Aviv University have found ...

Recommended for you

Early study shows shoe attachment can help stroke patients improve their gait

December 14, 2017
A new device created at the University of South Florida – and including a cross-disciplinary team of experts from USF engineering, physical therapy and neurology – is showing early promise for helping correct the signature ...

Deadly heart rhythm halted by noninvasive radiation therapy

December 13, 2017
Radiation therapy often is used to treat cancer patients. Now, doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that radiation therapy—aimed directly at the heart—can be used to treat patients ...

Scientists rewrite our understanding of how arteries mend

December 13, 2017
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered how the severity of trauma to arterial blood vessels governs how the body repairs itself.

Ultra-thin tissue samples could help to understand and treat heart disease

December 12, 2017
A new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab could help scientists to study how cells behave inside a beating heart.

Research reveals how diabetes in pregnancy affects baby's heart

December 12, 2017
Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have discovered how high glucose levels—whether caused by diabetes or other factors—keep heart cells from maturing ...

Young diabetics could have seven times higher risk for sudden cardiac death

December 12, 2017
Young diabetics could have seven times more risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest than their peers who don't have diabetes, according to new research.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

theskepticalpsychic
1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2013
After my heart attacks in 2009, I was not warned by the hospital about post-cardiac arrest depression. I experienced the worst depression of my life in the week after my attacks, characterized by feelings of profound dread and hopelessness. Everything around and within me seemed absolutely dark--no "light" anywhere. Some of this dread is still with me now, 3 1/2 years later, despite my psychopharmaceuticals. Maybe I wasn't told because I was an indigent patient.

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.