Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Can psychiatric problems cause heart disease and vice versa?
According to some estimates, 10 to 20 per cent of patients consulting cardiologists have a psychiatric basis for their symptoms. This means they have chest pains, breathlessness, palpitations and tachycardia (fast heartbeat) precipitated by psychiatric problems such as anxiety, panic disorders and depression. This does not mean their symptoms are insignificant; sometimes they are severe enough to mimic angina or a heart attack. In addition some of the antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs taken by psychiatric patients can cause irregular heartbeat.
Victims of heart attacks are usually both anxious and terrified at the time of the attack, and often depressed afterwards, as they wonder whether they will ever be able to resume a normal life. It is also common for open-heart surgery patients to experience disorientation, confusion, hallucinations and delusions for a few days after their operation.