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Emotional issues after coronary bypass surgery

Coronary Bypass Recovery: What to Expect: Page 4

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Mood swings or depression

What you can expect: Depression is one of the most common emotions affecting people who've had heart surgery. One out of three patients report feeling anxious or depressed after a heart attack or heart surgery.

What you can do:

  • Distinguish between depression and "the blues." It's not surprising that someone might feel down after bypass surgery. He may be frustrated with the recovery process and unhappy that he can't do the things he once did. But if it's just a temporary case of the blues, his mood should lift as he regains strength and his pain disappears. Depression, on the other hand, is likely to linger.

  • Watch for these common warning signs of depression:

    • Frequent crying episodes

    • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

    • Poor appetite or increased appetite

    • Sleeping too much or not enough

    • Increased agitation and restlessness

    • Loss of interest in life

    • Expressing thoughts of dying or suicide

  • Notify the doctor if you believe he's depressed. Depression is a serious problem that needs to be evaluated and treated.

  • Help him be as physically active as possible. Talk to the doctor and rehabilitation team about what exercises are appropriate.

  • Structure the day around activities that give him pleasure and a sense of purpose. For example, meet friends for lunch, or enjoy a leisurely walk through the mall.

Difficulty sleeping at night

What you can expect: Insomnia and fragmented sleep are common complaints after heart surgery. Normal sleep can be disrupted by pain, stress, or anxiety. He may find it difficult to fall asleep, or he may wake in the middle of the night and not be able to drift off again.

What you can do:

  • Minimize pain and discomfort at night. Arrange pillows to help him find the most comfortable sleeping position. If he has been prescribed pain medication, have him take it 30 minutes before bedtime.

  • Keep him busy so he won't nap too much during the day, but not so busy that he gets overly tired.

  • Eliminate caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.

  • Play relaxing music.