Beware of Depression and Anxiety After Heart Surgery

February Heart Month Heart Attack


When someone has heart surgery or has suffered a cardiac event (like a heart attack or stroke), the first priority is stabilizing their physical health. However, at the Community Reach Center, your Denver mental health center, we counsel people who have had heart surgery, and their families, to be aware of the potential mental health impact.

Not surprisingly, people who have been affected by heart disease are prone to developing depression and anxiety. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, while depression is reported in roughly 1 in 10 Americans ages 18 and older, the number can be as high as 33 percent in heart attack patients.

Signs of Depression and Anxiety after Heart Surgery

The positive news about depression and anxiety is that they are treatable conditions. Cardiac patients do not have to simply endure them. The key is being aware of the relationship between cardiac events and mental health, and keeping an eye out for the signs that normal sadness and fear are progressing into an illness.

With depression, the most common symptoms are:

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Change in appetite
  • A focus on potential negative outcomes

If a cardiac patient is developing anxiety, symptoms can include:

  • Nervousness, restlessness or being tense
  • Feelings of danger, dread or panic
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitching or trembling
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or focusing

What You Can Do

In many cases, it can be challenging to determine whether symptoms are the result of physical health challenges or a mental health condition, since there is significant overlap. For example, a cardiac event can leave the patient with less energy due to damage to the heart, but decreased energy can also be a sign of depression.

If you suspect you may be experiencing depression or anxiety, you should talk with your primary care physician. These conditions are very common, so your doctor likely has experience with them. A short screening test you can take is highly accurate in identifying depression and anxiety. You can also contact your Denver mental health counselor for the same type of assessment. Either way, it can be a relief to know there is a cause for how you are feeling and treatments that can help bring your emotions back into balance.

Treating Depression and Anxiety

Treatments for depression and anxiety include “talk therapy” and medication. A counselor might also recommend stress reduction techniques like meditation or breathing exercises. In many cases, a treatment plan will include all of the above.

Not only is it important to treat depression and anxiety to provide relief from their symptoms, these conditions can have a negative impact on physical health as well. They cause stress hormones to circulate through the body and also can increase the likelihood that a cardiac patient will fail to follow their physical rehabilitation plan. Avoiding necessary exercises and disregarding a medication regimen are common in those with depression and anxiety.  

Here to Help with the Mental Health Aspects of Heart Surgery Recovery.

At the Community Reach Center, your Denver mental health center, we can provide the counseling and medication needed to bring depression and anxiety under control after heart surgery. Contact the Community Reach Center online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.