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WHAT IS THE EMOTIONAL REACTION TO A HEART ATTACK: REPRESSION AND DISSIMULATION

Whereas some patients are hypochondriacs and exaggerate or invent symptoms, coronary patients often dissimulate their symptoms and their fears of developing life-threatening complications. The manner in which a coronary patient describes symptoms often gives the cardiologist an indication about his or her psychological state. Whereas the coronary patient tends to minimize his disease and insist that nothing is really wrong, the neurotic heart patient draws attention to complaints by dramatic descriptions.

The non-medical wife of a professor of medicine who is a friend of ours made the diagnosis "heart attack," but the professor angrily denied this, saying that he simply had something lodged in his esophagus or wind pipe. Similarly, a radiologist recalls that he suspected a heart attack in his own case, but had attempted to mislead his physician by describing different symptoms in order to avoid facing the truth.

Extremely ambitious persons who are very active in their careers often react in a manner involving both repression and dissimulation by insisting that everything is well again and that they are ready to take up all their former activities.

We hope that by drawing attention to these typical and possibly hazardous psychological reactions to a myocardial infarction, we can warn and be of help not only to patients, but also to relatives.

We also hope that the thoughts communicated in this section will encourage an open discussion with the physician. In our experience with heart attack patients we have found that the fears repressed in the first few weeks often turn into aggression. Many patients learn to realize and finally accept their situation with its limitations and possibilities only toward the end of their stay in the hospital.

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Cardio & Blood

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