In a study, entitled Cardiac Threat Appraisal and Depression after First Myocardial Infarction, conducted under the tutelage of Prof. Claus Vögele, a University of Luxembourg professor of clinical and health psychology, survivors of heart attacks have higher risks for depression within the next six months after the health event than individuals with no heart health issues. The researchers placed the higher risk as three times more likely by comparison.
Thirty-six cardiac patients were interviewed three times: first, soon after their heart attacks; second, six to eight weeks after the myocardial infarction; and third, six months after the attack. The patients were interviewed about their general health, disease-specific symptoms, and levels of fatigue, as well as their family life and work conditions. They were also interviewed about their coping mechanisms such as information seeking, threat minimization and rumination in regard to their heart attacks.
The results of the study can be summarized as follows:
• Psychological interventions designed to reduce cardiac threat appraisal for at least 2 weeks after the heart attack can lower the risks for depression, thus, increase the likelihood for smooth recovery.
• Cognitive interventions including providing information about heart attacks (i.e., symptoms, causes, and prevention for future attacks) can minimize the potential threat, which can lead to lower anxiety and depression risks. These interventions should include stress management coping strategies so that the individual can better cope with the heart attack.
What do these results mean for the ordinary individual? If you have suffered from a heart attack, you must seek the support of your family and friends as well as seek professional help from a qualified therapist. You will then be able to cope with your past health issue in a better manner and, thus, lessen your risk for depression.
Keep in mind that depression is not just a deep form of sadness. It is a medical condition requiring immediate and appropriate medical interventions.