February is Heart Awareness Month

Monday 19th February 2024 | Physical Health Conditions

February is often known as “heart month” and not just for Valentine’s Day. The British Heart Foundation uses February specifically as a month to raise awareness of heart conditions and the important role our heart has in keeping us happy and healthy.

It is estimated that in the UK someone dies from a heart or circulatory condition every 3 minutes and whether we have lost someone we love suddenly, or we’re coping with the impact of a heart condition(s) or a sudden injury to our heart. There are many of us that have felt this, and you are not alone.

The British Heart Foundation often run events to help communities learn how to do CPR to help protect the hearts of the people we love, and many community areas (village halls, supermarkets etc) have access to a defibrillator.


But… how can psychological therapy help those with a heart condition?


When we are living with a heart condition or our loved one is, it can make us feel anxious, overwhelmed, isolated and alone. We often don’t know who to turn to or whether someone else would understand and we might think we’re being a burden on our family.

Many individuals worry about the future when they have recently been diagnosed with a heart condition: “what does that mean?” “how am I going to cope?” “what if…” and there is usually lots of information that goes along with a new diagnosis and we’re trying to find a new way of coping. It’s very common to feel anxious and overwhelmed at first and especially after surgery or being given a device such as a pacemaker.


How might I know I’m feeling anxious or depressed?

Anxiety occurs when we feel worried or afraid about things that are happening or that may happen in the future. It is a natural human response to threat, and we can often feel anxious through what we think, feel and do. It is common to experience anxiety when coping with stressful life events or changes.

Depression is when we experience persistent symptoms of sadness for weeks or months. It is often associated with other mood changes including low motivation, loss of interest and we may experience negative thoughts of ourselves, others and the world which may or may not be associated with suicidal thoughts.

No two people will experience anxiety and depression in exactly the same way, but you may experience:

  • Physical symptoms including nausea, sweating, shaking, needing to wee more frequently.
  • Feeling afraid to do things you use to do.
  • Finding it difficult to stop thinking about something that has happened.
  • Worrying that something bad will happen or you won’t be able to cope.
  • Feeling nervous when you’re outside or on your own.
  • Avoidance of doing things in fear you will become unwell.
  • Difficulties sleeping.
  • Seeking reassurance from others “I’m okay aren’t I?”
  • Feeling hopeless and useless.
  • Frequent mood changes including feeling irritable.
  • Loss of interest in things you use to enjoy.
  • Feeling more tearful.


How can CBT help?

We can often experience a range of emotions and we may find it hard to name them and identify why we are experiencing them. We may also experience negative and/or worrisome thoughts and find it difficult to talk about them.

CBT helps you to understand and learn about the interaction between your mood and physical health symptoms, whilst exploring ways you can live well alongside your physical health condition(s). This is through connecting with aspects of your life that provide you value and meaning.

It’s important to remember that although CBT is a helpful talking therapy, the aim of therapy is not to reduce symptoms… but it can help you to find ways of coping with the difficult experiences you may face.

Below are some examples of what CBT could help with:

  • Worries about the future and what that might look like
  • Managing stress
  • Managing anxiety related to a medical device e.g. a pacemaker
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following surgery
  • Managing low mood and depression
  • Acceptance around a new diagnosis

What are the next steps?

It’s important to attend all medical appointments and you can also visit the British Heart Foundation website which has lots of information about the heart and associated conditions.

Here at Lifted Therapy, we have supported individuals and their loved ones, who have experienced anxiety and depression in relation to their heart condition(s).

You can contact our friendly team using our contact us form if you have any questions or book a free initial consultation with one of our therapists using our online booking form if you feel therapy might be helpful and we can talk through the different options available and what the next steps would look like.