Common emotions and feelings after a heart attack

Experiencing a heart attack, or other cardiac situation, can be a traumatic and life-altering event, both physically and emotionally. People feel a range of good (and not so good) emotions – perhaps some of these will resonate with you? 

Please believe me when I say that all emotions are normal and whatever you are feeling and experiencing is normal!  You have been through a change of health and your mind and body are getting back in sync whilst you adjust. 

If, however, you don’t feel very safe with your feelings and emotions, then do reach out for support from a medical professional.

  • Shock and Disbelief: I can’t believe I’ve had a heart attack – I’m too young / I’ve always been healthy / I didn’t think I would get sick.  I think the doctors might have got it wrong.  I feel fine.  I didn’t have the symptoms you see on the TV shows.  
  • Anger and Frustration: It is not fair.  Why Me when “the person down the road smokes / drinks / is old / has a family history / eats take aways / never exercises / Insert own words”
  • Fear and Anxiety: Feel anxious or stressed about having another heart attack, or what the future holds. This can also be ‘scanxiety’ – worried about the next tests and scans.
  • Depression: A heart attack can trigger feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression. The sudden change in health status, combined with concerns about limitations and lifestyle changes, can contribute to these emotions.
  • Guilt and Regret: Perhaps feeling a bit guilty or having regrets over not changing lifestyle a bit sooner, or not seeking medical help at the first twinge or thought that something may be wrong.  
  • Loss of confidence – worried at the idea of going back to work or returning to normal life again.  Lost the ‘superman’ cape and feeling a bit more vulnerable.
  • Isolation and Loneliness: Feeling a bit isolated or alone as you aren’t in your regular routines and perhaps people around you don’t understand what it is like to be in your shoes.  Perhaps your lifestyle is now different – not going to the same social places for a while or eating / drinking the same as before.
  • Getting tearful / choked up at random things:  Wondering if you will always be crying over a cute puppy or something on the news.  Dealing with waves of emotions about things that didn’t used to affect you.

There is also the flip side, so perhaps you are feeling positive about your experiences. 

  • Feel no different!  Getting back on with life – it happened and no point in worrying about it.  
  • Motivated for change – deciding that you want things to be different going forward.  Considering lifestyle changes, or setting different boundaries and goals for your future.  
  • Wanting others to change – talking to others about your experiences.
  • Acceptance / Adapted to the changes: You have worked through your initial emotions and come to terms with the new reality.  
  • Gratitude and Resilience: You have a newfound sense of gratitude for life and a heightened appreciation for health and ready to navigate any challenges ahead. 

Everyone is different and every emotion and feeling is normal.  Feelings can vary from person to person – and you don’t have to experience every single point. If you or someone you know is struggling with the emotional aftermath of a heart attack, seeking support from medical professionals, counsellors, support groups, and loved ones can be highly beneficial.

Keep an eye out for future blogs and videos with tips and ideas on dealing with difficult emotions.