Matters of the Heart: Patients' Intra- and Interpersonal Adjustment to Life Following a Cardiac Crisis
So, Sharon S.
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Cardiac crises (e.g. heart attack or bypass surgery) have been shown to be related to poorer patient psychological and relational functioning. While these studies assume that the event significantly impacts patients, they do not measure the specific ways by which the cardiac event impacts their lives. In the current study, new measures were developed and validated to assess specifically how the event emotionally impacts the patient’s life. I proposed that how these emotions are engaged in part accounts for the impact of the event on negative outcomes. Results showed that the greater the current impact of the cardiac event on patients, the greater their current levels of depression, anxiety and trauma. Further, greater emotional blocking (failure to willingly process emotions internally) was associated with less optimal psychological and relational functioning. Unexpectedly, greater disclosure of emotions to one’s partner was also related to diminished psychological health, but unrelated to relationship functioning. Thus, it appears disclosure in the current study reflects distressed “venting”, and blocking represents an unhealthy form of engaging negative emotions from the cardiac event. Implications for further research using the scales assessing the distinct components of the emotional impact of the event and the engagement of these emotions are discussed.