Gary Dorman suffered a severe heart attack 12 years ago. In the months and years since, it's taken a toll; both physically and emotionally.
"I constantly go back to it," he said. "It's something you don't forget, especially the massive heart attack I had, the situation I went through."
Doctors told Dorman he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and he's not alone. New research from Columbia University Medical Center shows one in eight people or more who have a heart attack develop symptoms of PTSD. Traumatic experiences such as fighting in combat or being sexually assaulted usually bring on the anxiety disorder.
"Intrusive thoughts about the experience, thoughts that you cannot get out of your head, nightmares, sleep disruption," said Dr. Donald Edmondson of Columbia University Medical Center.
Researchers reviewed 24 previous studies. They also found heart patients with PTSD have double the risk of having another heart attack or dying in the next three years.
Nearly 1.5 million patients suffer heart attacks or other sudden heart conditions every year in the U.S. Researchers say that means 168,000 would develop PTSD.
"Everyone who has something bad happen to them experiences PTSD-like symptoms within the first couple of days," Edmondson said. "It's only those people that after a month those symptoms are still around that we can say this is a psychological disorder."
Therapy and medication can help treat the disorder. Researchers hope more doctors will now be on the lookout for PTSD in heart patients.
Other symptoms of PTSD can include avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
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