It is common for people facing a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) – or heart surgery – to feel anxious and/or depressed.
Anxiety, Depression and Heart Disease
Even before you need surgery, it is important to know that anxiety, depression and coronary heart disease (CHD) often occur together. Depression can be as big a risk factor for heart disease as smoking, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Sometimes after the surgery your feelings of anxiety and/or depression may increase, or if they do decrease you are not back to the usual level of comfort you had prior to needing surgery.
How Important is it that I get help with Depression or Anxiety?
If you are experiencing some anxiety or depression, your ability to recover in the short and long term may be affected.
Depression also tends to affect whether you participate in, and complete, your cardiac rehabilitation program. Thus depression can also affect your recovery and increase your risk of further heart problems.
In fact, ongoing depression has been shown to affect your quality of life, your vitality, and your social life, as well as your physical and general health.
For all these reasons, it is vitally important that you reach out and find support if you are struggling with feelings before or after your heart surgery.
Fortunately, once diagnosed, anxiety and depression in people with CHD, and after CABG surgery, can be treated safely and effectively.
Psychological therapies may not only help with recovery, but can also help prevent a recurrence of anxiety or depression. These therapies help build skills in coping with stressful life circumstances and can be provided by a psychologist, psychiatrist or other trained health professional.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) currently has the largest amount of research carried out on its effectiveness. It has been found to have the most ongoing, durable effect in helping individuals to recover from heart surgery and return to a full, active life. CBT teaches people to evaluate their thinking about common difficulties, helping them to change their thought patterns. and the way they react to certain situations.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is also effective for treating depression and some types of anxiety. It helps people find new ways to get along with others and to resolve losses, changes and conflicts in relationships.
Interventions are based on best available evidence, integrated with individual client characteristics, current physical health, culture and preferences. So after you have seen your doctor for medical assessment, treatment, and plans for surgery, ask about a Mental Health Care Plan. Your doctor can assess your needs and help you decide whether to seek help from a psychologist.
Registered Psychologist Mia Olsson has had a broad interdisciplinary role in the health industry for over thirty years, including hospital-based nurse training, and an Honours Degree majoring in Psychology. She has a particular interest in assisting clients with depressive disorders, anxiety, acute and chronic complex trauma, and health related issues.
- Australian Psychological Society. (2010). Evidence-based Psychological Interventions in the Treatment of Mental Disorders (3rd ed.). Author.
- Colquhoun, D.M., Bunker, S.J., Clarke, D.M., et al. (2013). Screening, referral and treatment for depression in patients with coronary heart disease. A consensus statement from the National Heart Foundation of Australia. Med J Aust, 198 (9), 483-484. Available at: www.heartfoundation.org. au/information-for-professionals/Clinical-Information/pages/psychosocial-health.aspx
- Freedland,K.E., Skala, J.A., Carney, R.M., et al. (2009). Treatment of Depression After Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 66(4), 387-396. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.7.
- Tully, P. J., & Baker, R. A. (2012). Depression, anxiety, and cardiac morbidity outcomes after coronary artery bypass surgery: a contemporary and practical review. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology : JGC, 9(2), 197–208. doi:10.3724/SP.J.1263.2011.12221
The information on this topic page is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional.