I am
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising.

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising.

Emotional wellbeing is the way someone thinks about themselves or others, and is an indicator of personal strengths, resilience and current ability to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life

Positive emotional wellbeing is important to have at any age and life stage, but is particularly important within the field of heart health, due to the known relationship between cardiac health and emotional health. This means, that often when your physical health status changes, the likelihood is, so will your emotional health. Of course, not everyone experiences negative changes, but in every case there’s a period of adjustment, where things might just feel… different.

This article aims to promote an understanding of a variety of common emotional wellbeing issues amongst people with heart conditions, and offers some advice on how to improve emotional health, and where to get some extra help if you think you need it.

What emotional symptoms can look like

After any new diagnosis, surgery or cardiac event, most people are faced with some sort of emotional recovery as well.

Sometimes this occurs long after the physical healing takes place. This could be emotional changes like sadness, fear, dread, guilt, grief, shame or regret; as well as changes to the way we act like withdrawing from others, losing motivation, reduced interest in usual activities, sudden tearfulness, not wanting to be alone, or repeatedly checking your vital signs.

Most commonly, there are alterations in thinking like persistent worry, expecting the worst, believing you’re a burden, or thinking that you’re faulty in some way. As well as this, confusingly, certain emotional symptoms can also look like cardiac symptoms; including fatigue, palpitations, a dry mouth and shortness of breath.
These are all common responses to any sort of cardiac issue, and all very normal unless they get to the point of getting in the way of your overall enjoyment of life, your recovery, or how you feel about yourself. It’s important to discuss all of your symptoms with your medical team.

Dealing with scars, bruises, devices and new parts

Body image issues are common in people with any chronic health condition. But where’s the manual for coming to terms with keloid chest scars, someone else’s heart inside you, or your blood being controlled by parts of a pig!?

We are wired to expect our bodies to do the right thing by us, but after all, we’re not perfect and sometimes neither is our organs. Modern medical interventions work miracles, but can also leave us with visible reminders of our most vulnerable and painful moments.

It’s not nice to feel different. Coping with this is very individual; some people hide it, others get tattoos, some gradually re-conceptualise their scars as battle wounds, a badge that says “I made it, I’m alive”. It may take time to accept. People may stare.

When it comes to others’ questions, say only what you’re comfortable with - your body is your business. And if you want to create an elaborate I-fought-off-a-shark story to get through the initial discomfort, that’s perfectly fine too.

Top tips for improving your emotional wellbeing

The Heart Foundation is aiming to promote awareness surrounding emotional wellbeing, and we encourage you to open up the conversation with friends, loved ones and health professionals about what this means to you, and how others can support your health journey. 

 

Guest author

Carlye Weiner
Carlye is a psychologist who specialises in supporting clients of all ages to enhance their mental health and wellbeing. Carlye works at Headspace Frankston and Essentia Health and Wellbeing in Victoria.

You might also be interested in

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Dan was six minutes into his treadmill session when his heart stopped beating....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

The Heart Foundation has designed a series of emails to help people who've had heart attacks (and their loved ones) through their recovery....

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

A selection of heart health information brochures in a range languages...

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Research Directory

Research Directory

Tenecteplase versus alteplase for stroke thrombolysis evaluation trial

Tenecteplase versus alteplase for stroke thrombolysis evaluation trial

Professor Mark Parsons, Institution: University of Melbourne...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

The fundraising race where you set the pace. Run, jog or walk MyMarathon at your own pace during October....

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Get the facts on quitting and how it can help you recover. ...

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Useful cardiac rehabilitation resources for health professionals....

Breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos

5 minutes
Serves 1

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

Clinical information and links to SCAD resources....

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Improving the design of our cities, towns, streets and buildings makes it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Post-use evaluation survey

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Post-use evaluation survey

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Benefits of physical activity for your heart

Physical activity and exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental health....

What is acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease?

What is acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease?

What is acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease?

Rheumatic heart disease is a serious disease that causes damage to your heart valves. ...

Our corporate partners

Our corporate partners

Our corporate partners

We value the support of all of our corporate partners....

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

Claude Lam, Open heart surgery survivor...

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

Apple & honey nut crumble oats

Apple & honey nut crumble oats

Apple & honey nut crumble oats

10 minutes
Serves Serves 2 (Makes 2 cups)

Heart procedures and devices

Heart procedures and devices

Heart procedures and devices

If you have a heart condition, your doctor may recommend treatment or procedures...

Advocating for healthy hearts throughout Australia

Advocating for healthy hearts throughout Australia

We're addressing the disparities in heart health so all Australians can live longer, healthier lives....

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Find heart healthy chicken recipes....

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

40-50 minutes
Serves 6

Atrial fibrillation resources for patients

Atrial fibrillation resources for patients

3 Minute Research Competition Terms & Conditions

3 Minute Research Competition Terms & Conditions

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Heart Foundation Research Alumni Events

Check back in for the latest updates on our alumni-exclusive events ...

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Driving Best Practice CVD Prevention in a Post-COVID World

Driving Best Practice CVD Prevention in a Post-COVID World

Driving Best Practice CVD Prevention in a Post-COVID World

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Donate Monthly | Become a Regular Donor

Join the fight against heart disease....

Our programs and initiatives

Our programs and initiatives

Our programs and initiatives

The Heart Foundation delivers innovative, evidence-based programs and initiatives to support and prevent heart disease in Australia...

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

For professionals: Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 

For professionals: Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 

Recommendations for assessing Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ...