Heart Attacks Cause PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder common among heart patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A heart attack is not an easy thing to endure for many reasons, changing your diet and lifestyle among them. These physical changes are important, but it may be that mental health treatment is important as well.

A recent analysis of many smaller studies, called a meta-analysis, found that many of those who suffer from a cardiac event will develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afterwards.

Furthermore, those people are twice as likely to suffer from another cardiac event within three years.

"Have a psychologist assess your mental health."

"While most people think of PTSD as a disorder of combat veterans and sexual assault survivors, it is also quite common among patients who have had a severe coronary event," said Donald Edmondson, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. "Not only are such events life-threatening, but their psychological impact can be devastating and long lasting."

The research team used data from 24 studies which collected data about Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) and PTSD. The studies involved 2,383 patients who suffered from ACS, which is any cardiac event due to blocked or damaged coronary artery.

After compiling and analyzing the data, the researchers found that 12 percent of those who suffer from ACS develop significant PTSD symptoms. Also, 4 percent meet the criteria for an official PTSD diagnosis.

Since the meta-study also found that those who develop PTSD symptoms are more likely to return to the hospital with ACS within three years, it is important to accurately treat these symptoms.

"Given that some 1.4 million ACS patients are discharged from U.S. hospitals each year, our results suggest that 168,000 patients will develop clinically significant PTSD symptoms. That is quite substantial,” said Edmondson.

“However,” he continues, “there is abundant evidence that psychological disorders in heart patients are underrecognized and undertreated. In fact, underdiagnosis may be even more pronounced in cardiac practices than in other types of medical practices."

The researchers notes that more research is necessary to determine if PTSD treatment reduces the likelihood of secondary ACS.

The study was published June 20, 2012 in the online journal PLoS ONE and was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Columbia University's Clinical and Translational Science Awards from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

The authors declare no financial or other conflicts of interest. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 18, 2012
Last Updated:
June 20, 2012