WHEN TO SEEK PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSISTANCE AFTER A MYOCARDIAL INFACTION
You just had a heart attack. This may have triggered multiple emotional reactions.
Here are some useful strategies and information that will help you through this particularly demanding period.
Having a heart attack is shocking and stressful indeed, it brings on fear and presents a significant challenge for your ability to adapt.
It can be quite scary for you to admit that your heart, a vital organ, is sick. Your fear is even more intense if you know someone who died from a heart attack or when this is the first one you have.
A heart attack is one's own personal experience. Your reaction to it depends on several factors, namely the severity of your heart disease, how the heart attack occurred, your life history, your personality, your psychological profile and your coping mechanisms, etc.
3 topics will be addressed on the psychological incidence of a heart attack:
- The most common psychological reactions
- Valuable strategies to help you adapt to your new situation
- When is it time to worry and ask for help?
A period of physical and psychological vulnerability
The first 6 months that follow a heart attack or a cardiac procedure (namely, a coronary dilation with or without the installation of one or more stents or any other cardiac surgery) are a period of both physical and psychological vulnerability.
It is very important to implement right then and there physical and psychological prevention efforts. You must therefore consistently adhere to your recommended medical and pharmaceutical treatments, as well as to your cardiac readaptation program.
It is essential also to remain vigilant as regards psychological symptoms that may appear during this critical period.
Between 1 and 5 people will develop depression after a heart attack.
When is it time to worry?
Never hesitate to consult a professional, if...
- you often feel sad and depressed,
- you lost interest in doing activities you used to enjoy,
- you often suffer from insomnia,
- you feel a crippling fear of another heart attack, you are overly worried of symptoms that seem similar to the ones you felt when you had a heart attack,
- you make the greatest efforts to avoid contact with anything that might remind you of your heart attack: thoughts, location, people, etc.,
- you are overwhelmed by the anguish of dying,
- you drink more and/or use more drugs,
- you don't feel well enough to go back to work after your sick leave.
How can a psychologist help you?
The psychologist will assess your problems and will treat you for:
- the adaptation difficulties you are struggling with due to your cardiac disease or heart attack, namely: anxiety related to the possibility of suffering another heart attack, fear of your own death or that of a person close to you, you find it hard to follow medical instructions, difficulty in changing your life habits, fear of being abandoned by relatives and friends, the impact of the heart disease or heart attack on the people around you that may bring you into conflicts with them, etc.,
- anxiety disorders: panic attacks and generalized anxiety,
- difficulty with alcohol, drugs and medication limitations,
- finding it hard to go back to work after a heart attack,
- communication with your health-care team is difficult.
How do I get psychological help?
It is very important to inform your health professionals: cardiologist, family doctor, nurse, etc. of the psychological difficulties that are yours and that developed after your heart attack. You absolutely must not hesitate to contact them; they will guide you in getting the right psychological help you need.
Do keep in mind that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but one of great courage!
You can obtain psychological support in many ways.
Psychological care is provided at several hospitals, at front-line medical service centers, and from psychologists who work in private practice. Specialized phone lines and crisis intervention phone lines are available also. You can find additional phone lines and organizations online as well.
You can get psychological help at the following:
- your local CLSC's psychological service (drop in or give them a call. An initial assessment of your case will be provided to you within 24 hours);
- you may call 811 (info-santé), if you want to find out about your local CLSC; contact the Ordre des psychologues du Québec Reference Center:
- 514 738-1881
- psychological help is provided also by the cardiology department of some general hospitals where psychological health services are available.
You may find the following resouces helpful as well:
- REVIVRE (a support organization for people suffering from depression, anxiety and bipolar problems:
- Revivre: 540 St-Hubert St., Montreal, QC H2J 2Y3
Phone: 514 738-4873
- Revivre: 300-418 Sherbrooke St. E., Montreal, QC H2L 1J6
Phone: 1 866 738-4873
- Your local crisis center:
- 1 866 APPELLE
- Cardiac Rehabilitation Program of the hospital where you were treated.
- Center for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS)
- Drug Help And Referral (DAR) offers support, information and referral to people affected by drug addiction throughout Quebec:
- 514 527-2626 Montreal and its surrounding area
- 1 800 265-2626 (elsewhere in the province of Quebec)
Similar help phone lines and centers exist throughout Canada. Do not hesitate to reach out to them whenever you feel support is required.