Recovering From Heart Surgery: Face It With Naluri


Going through a heart surgery – whether an angioplasty, a bypass, or recovering from cardiac arrest – can be very daunting. You have to deal with the both the stress and psychological trauma of the procedure, thoughts of mortality, and at the same time, you have to be focused about making lifestyle changes to diet, exercise, stress management and regular medication to ensure a healthy recovery and prevent a recurrence.


Along this journey to recovery, you may face pervasive fear. A brief moment in your day when it feels like your heart has “skip a beat” can trigger anxiety. Thoughts such as “am I going to have another heart attack?” or “am I going to black out?” race through your mind. Inadvertently, you have developed a constant awareness of your heart. Simple activities like walking alone can elicit fear.

It can be a struggle to accept that coronary heart disease (CHD) came at our door and left an ugly scar down the middle of our chest. And so it is no wonder then that post surgery – we can find ourselves depressed. However, there is hope and recent research point’s the way to manage CHD struggles. We no longer have to suffer alone.

Empirical research has proven that psychological support using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can alleviate our emotional distress post heart procedure, lead to a better quality of life, and decrease hospitalization even when antidepressants are not effective (Freedland et al. 2015; Hwang et al. 2015). What is CBT you may ask? CBT is a technique used to reframe your thought patterns and replace them with helpful thoughts that will result in positive feelings and adaptive actions towards CHD. For instance CBT can help restructure your thinking to gain confidence that not all cardiac events are harmful when you develop hypersensitivity to your heart beats. Also, CBT has found to effectively reduce panic attacks and avoidance behaviours post CHD (Tully, Sardinha & Nardi 2017).

Tailoring CBT to CHD falls under the realm of Health Psychology (HP). Health psychologists use their knowledge of specific medical conditions and psychology to help individuals cope mentally, manage their pain and strategize lifestyle changes together with their clients. Not all mental health professionals are the same, and health psychologists are better positioned to understand how hard living with CHD can be. For example, individuals suffering from panic attacks post CHD have a specific model called PATCHD that health psychologists use during therapy which is empirically validated (Tully, Sardinha & Nardi 2017). Thus, instead of getting general coping advice from a psychologist, health psychologists will tailor treatment and contextualise to your needs post CHD.


The Health Psychology Model
(Image from META-Medicine UK)


At Naluri, we take a holistic approach to health. Naluri offers safe, confidential coaching using empirically proven techniques such as CBT and more. Dr Hariyati Shahrima Abdul Majid (PhD in Health Psychology, Surrey), Naluri’s co-founder and health psychologist has over 20 years of experience working with hundreds of patients diagnosed with CHD to improve their quality of life. Her specific area of research and clinical practice is in psychological predictors of recovery from coronary heart disease among Malaysians and predictors of willingness to attend cardiac rehabilitation programs. Her academic experience was at Universiti Islam Malaysia, and she also set up the Psychology Unit and Lifestyle Modification Centre at Prince Court Medical Centre.

If you are having difficulty coping with an ongoing or new diagnosis, consider making an appointment to meet and partner with Dr Hariyati today.


Reference List

  1. Freedland, KE, Carney, RM, Rich, MW, Steinmeyer, BC & Rubin, EH 2015, ‘Cognitive behavior therapy for depression and self-care in heart failure patients: a randomized clinical trial’, JAMA internal medicine, vol. 175, no. 11, pp. 1773–1782.

  2. Hwang, B, Eastwood, J-A, McGuire, A, Chen, B, Cross-Bodán, R & Doering, LV 2015, ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Depressed Cardiac Surgery Patients: Role of Ejection Fraction’, The Journal of cardiovascular nursing, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 319–324.

  3. Tully, PJ, Sardinha, A & Nardi, AE 2017, ‘A New CBT Model of Panic Attack Treatment in Comorbid Heart Diseases (PATCHD): How to Calm an Anxious Heart and Mind’, Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 329–341.