I am
Show me:
Show me:
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....

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. ...

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Thankfully for Grant Byrne, a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, some quick thinking helped him avoid a stairway to heaven. Read Grant’s heart attack story now. ...

Psychological and social health action plan

Psychological and social health action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your emotional health....

Heart attack medication

Heart attack medication

Heart attack medication

There are a number of medications you could be prescribed after a heart attack....

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

David reflects on how his life changed when he had a heart attack at 35 and how he got back on track....

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Explore the Heart Foundation’s guide on what to expect in the first month after your heart attack. ...

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

Nicola, mum of 2, shares her heart attack recovery story....

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. ...

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Blog by Carlye Weiner, Clinical Psychologist...

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Explore some useful things to know about intimacy after a heart attack....

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Today, Cupid is busy slinging arrows. Perhaps, you are frantic buying flowers or chocolates, booking dinner or penning a pitter-patter inducing poem....

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Many different thoughts may go through your head after a heart attack and you may be presented with complicated medical info. Know where to get support. ...

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Understanding the connections between our physical and mental health....

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day; some people celebrate, other’s vehemently oppose it. Whatever your opinion, it’s important to remember that the day is about love. All forms of it....

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky....

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

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

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

Wholegrains and heart health

All you need to know about wholegrains to put you on the right track...

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

WEBINAR | Absolute CVD risk assessment practical update

A multidisciplinary panel of experts discuss the practical application of absolute CVD risk assessment through Heart Health Checks....

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents....

Snack recipes

Snack recipes

Snack recipes

Search for healthy snack ideas...

Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

There are many medicines that treat heart attack, angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart conditions....

General Practitioner Survey 2020

General Practitioner Survey 2020

This survey has been designed to collect feedback from general practitioners about their awareness and use of Heart Foundation materials....

Heart Foundation supports Wollongong City Council’s draft 10-year cycling strategy

Heart Foundation supports Wollongong City Council’s draft 10-year cycling strategy

Heart Foundation supports Wollongong City Council’s draft 10-year cycling strategy

Media Release - 30 June 2020 ...

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Lunch recipes

Search our lunch recipe ideas...

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter has lived with a rare heart condition since he was 14, but hadn’t given it too much thought until his 30s....

Our supporters 

Our supporters 

Our supporters 

Working together to save Australian hearts...

Asian recipes

Asian recipes

Asian recipes

Find heart healthy Asian recipes....

Absolute CVD risk assessment resources

Absolute CVD risk assessment resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

For Professionals: Cardiac Rehabilitation Patient Resources

For Professionals: Cardiac Rehabilitation Patient Resources

Sodium and salt converter

Sodium and salt converter

Convert the sodium listed on food products into grams of salt or vice versa. ...

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your family moving

Get your kids active and set them up for healthier habits into adulthood....

Heart health submissions to Government

Heart health submissions to Government

Every day we are lobbying government and industry to improve heart health....

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Dessert recipes

Find heart healthy dessert recipes....

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

The Australian Guideline for Prevention, Diagnosis and Management of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease (2nd Edition)​....

Supporting SA cardiac patients and health professionals with free resources

Supporting SA cardiac patients and health professionals with free resources

Supporting SA cardiac patients and health professionals with free resources

We want to make it easier for South Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

Spring back to heart-healthy eating with these delicious tips

With spring sprung, now is the time to get back to heart-healthy eating. ...

Food and nutrition position statements

Food and nutrition position statements

Food and nutrition position statements

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....