Care for Trauma Patients Shouldn’t  End at the Physician’s Door – PART III

Research Has Been Done

Mental health issues and physical health illnesses are often interconnected. Research has shown patients with chronic or serious health issues, often experience mental health problems as well. The two are often intertwined, making it difficult for medical doctors to recognize the symptoms of the psychological issues.  For example:

Professor David Goldberg of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK, reports that the rate of depression in patients with a chronic disease is almost three times higher than normal. He explains, “Depression and chronic physical illness are in reciprocal relationship with one another: not only do many chronic illnesses cause higher rates of depression, but depression has been shown to antedate some chronic physical illnesses.”

He states that depression which occurs together with physical illness is less well diagnosed than depression occurring on its own. “Depression among those with chronic physical illnesses is likely to be missed by professionals who care for physically sick patients,” he writes in the journal World Psychiatry. “This is because health professionals are understandably concerned with the physical disorder which is usually the reason for the consultation, and may not be aware of the accompanying depression.” (Collingwood, J., 2016).

Dr. Samuel Sears is one of several doctors who have completed extensive research on the psychological effects of trauma and stressful events on heart patients. He has studied the psychological responses to such issues as Chronic Heart Disease, ICD implants, and Heart Failure.  In one such article he teams up with Jessica Ford, Julie Shea, and John Cahill. The article; Coping with Trauma and Stressful Events as a Patient with an Implantable Cardio-verter Defibrillator (2013), states a patient’s reaction to a traumatic event may range from brief to debilitating. The individual patient’s personal reaction to the event will determine the level of trauma interpreted. PTSD is often a psychological reaction to such trauma.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specific reaction to a traumatic experience. This reaction involves symptoms such as high anxiety, avoidance, and re-experiencing the event in the form of unwanted thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks. In the general public, approximately 8% of people meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder, whereas 20% of ICD patients have significant symptoms of PTSD, meaning that 1 in 5 people with an ICD has PTSD (Sears,, 2013- Jan).

Other negative responses to traumatic events may include anxiety, depression, and repetitive safety behaviors. Patients experiencing negative psychological responses to health trauma may practice avoidance behaviors.  Patients will attempt to avoid thoughts, feelings, people, places, activities, and things in an attempt to escape painful and difficult reminders of the traumatic event (Sears,, 2013).

Dr. Sears, also discusses psychological issues in patients associated with, and living with, chronic heart failure (Sears,, 2013 – April).  Fifty percent of Chronic Heart Failure (CHF) patients experience depression. The symptoms of CHF and depression mirror each other. Symptoms include fatigue, sleep issues, loss of interest in daily activities, lack of concentration, changes in appetite, and feelings of hopelessness. CHF patients also experience symptoms of anxiety such as “excessive worry, fear, dread, muscle tension, sweating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue” (Sears,, 2013 – April, p. e526). If psychological issues are not recognized by the medical staff, patients do not often receive assistance. Patients, who do receive psychological treatment, often increase their observance to their medical treatment and develop healthier lifestyles.



To read Part 2 Click Here 


For more information contact: Fawn Jardee; Personal Pathways –, 480-221-7203