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What are we really talking about when we use terms like anxiety and depression? While most of us experience distinct psychological distress, patients don’t “go crazy” in any way. In fact, when given standard psychological tests to measure behaviour, they are diagnosed as normal. That is to say, the symptoms associated with heart problems are not in the realm of illness. Rather, we’re talking about distress. After heart attack, bypass, angioplasty, valve replacement, or a physician’s diagnosis of existing heart disease, we’re placed in a state of mental unrest, of unease. Let’s look at some parallels.
Remember back when you were a student and had an exam coming up. You were anxious, and that anxiety was normal. If you didn’t do very well on the exam, you became depressed. But neither that anxiety nor depression was expected to last. Only rarely do students enter a malignant state of mental disorder. They go on and eventually get their degree or diploma.
The important thing to remember is that the kind of anxiety and distress associated with heart events should be temporary. I sincerely believe that overcoming those psychological states quickly can facilitate recovery and speed us along the path toward good health and well-being. You know you’re going to get better.
Here’s an interesting statistic on the power of knowledge. In a study looking at altering pre-operative anxiety and assisting post-operative recovery, researchers at the University of Wisconsin found, that bypass patients who failed to read an educational booklet on the surgery were in the intensive care unit (ICU) approximately two days longer than those who did read it. Patients who read the material had lower postoperative anxiety scores and they experienced a faster recovery. Other studies similarly suggest that better informed patients recover more quickly. And that’s what you want, right?
Certain characteristics appear in patients who become overly anxious and distressed. Here are some things to look out for:
Low energy levels. Every task becomes monumental.
Lack of interest in personal appearance and grooming.
Changes in physical appearance, gait and posture.
Failure to make eye contact with others.
Withdrawal from family and friends.
Refusal to assume responsibility owing to feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness.
Increased dependency on others.
Trivialisation of past accomplishments.
Magnification of negative events; minimising of positive ones.
Resentment of those who are well.
Refusal of rehabilitation efforts.
Continued bad moods from day to day.
Crying spells.
Intense guilt.
One must deal with psychological distress before the very things that can improve health can be effective. At the very outset, you, yourself, have to make the decision to go on to a healthy outlook and outcome. So how do you come to grips with the problems of denial, anxiety, distress and depression?

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