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Is it normal to have post-trauma stress after a heart attack?

Oct 13, 2023
woman having a heart attack

All around the world, every day, thousands of us are experiencing challenging situations that trigger a mild or severe stress response. So many of these are associated with surviving life-threatening or witnessing life-ending, incidents. 

A proportion of these, up to 10% of men and 20% of women can go on to receive a mental health diagnosis such as acute stress disorder (ASD) if symptoms have lasted for up to 4 weeks, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if they continue for longer.

In particular, PTSD has been found to affect 1 in 8 people who survive a heart attack and according to BHF cardiac nurse Vanessa Smith, some experts believe that 1 in 4 cardiac arrest survivors go on to develop PTSD. In addition, those witnessing the event can also go on to experience post-traumatic stress symptoms.

If you have survived or witnessed a cardiac arrest or heart attack you may experience a range of symptoms that can be long-lasting and affect daily living experiences, such as fear, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, racing heart, inability to focus, avoiding places/people, being easily started and having intrusive thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks of aspects of the traumatic event.

It's common to feel like you’re the only one experiencing these symptoms, however, you're not alone and post-trauma stress is very treatable and reversible.

Survivors and witnesses with heart conditions who have untreated PTSD following a heart event such as a heart attack or cardiac arrest, are at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and experiencing high blood pressure requiring additional medication.


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