Many people experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress after suffering a heart attack, shows a new study.
Published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, the study found that about 16 per cent of its subjects met the criteria for the condition, often characterised by agitation, nightmares, flashbacks, and mood swings, a new study found.
The report further said that another 18 per cent suffered some symptoms of the disorder.
It said that many were also found to feel anxious, depressed, and withdrew from social contact.
The study further revealed that suffering symptoms of PTSD was associated with having a more severe heart attack, and also with other factors including previous trauma and mental health problems.
Patients who were in denial about their condition where also more likely to develop symptoms of the condition, the findings show.
The researchers behind the study warn that patients should be monitored more closely after they suffer a heart attack.
"Feelings of fear, anxiety and depression are common after (a heart attack)," the Telegraph quoted Dr. Susan Ayers, from the University of Sussex, as saying.
"The findings of this study suggest that a high proportion experience very severe distress, this has the potential to impair recovery, quality of life and threaten future health.
"It is therefore vital that cardiac patients are screened for psychological distress, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, and offered appropriate treatment if necessary," Dr. Ayers added.
For their research, the experts looked at 74 persons who had had a heart attack in the previous three months.
They revealed that the patients had an average age of 62, and more than three quarters of them were men.
During the study, the researchers asked the subjects to fill in questionnaires looking for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They also asked the participants about their reaction to their heart attack, including how severe they thought it had been and to what extent they felt that their life had been in danger.
Physical health, anxiety, depression and impairment of social activities were also measured, as were "dysfunctional" coping strategies including denial and avoidance.
"A heart attack can leave people, especially those who already feel quite vulnerable, feeling isolated and traumatised," said Ruairi O'Connor, from the British Heart Foundation.
"It is vital that people receive the care and support they need to recover physically and emotionally.
"This should be done through cardiac rehab programmes; however these services continue to be underfunded and under staffed.
"Our audit of services last year showed that only 23 per cent of programmes offer access to a psychologist," O'Connor added.