Heart Services

Depression and Heart Failure

Depression, anxiety and heart failure

It is common to feel sad or anxious after a new diagnosis or after being in the hospital. About 75 percent of people with heart failure feel this way.

These feelings are normal, temporary and should gradually go away as you get back to your normal activities. Treatment may be necessary if you continue to feel very depressed or anxious, most of the day, every day, for two or more weeks. Talk with your doctor who can diagnose and start treatment for depression and anxiety.

Why is depression and anxiety a problem for people with heart failure syndrome?

  • It can add to an increased risk of illness or other heart problems. 
  • It can make it hard for you to take your medications on time. 
  • It can make it hard to put in the effort to make needed changes in your diet and exercise. 
  • It can change your nervous system and hormonal balance. If this happens, you could get a heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). 

If you have thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself or others, dial 9-1-1 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Resources for treating depression and anxiety

  • Connection: Friends and family can help you return to the person you were before.
  • Cardiac rehab: Studies show that participating in a structured exercise program, like those offered by cardiac rehab, can help you return to your normal activities and help to manage feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Counseling: Depression and anxiety can by treated by working with a mental health therapist either individually or in a group setting. Therapists can help you learn new coping skills to reduce and manage these symptoms.
  • Medication: Your doctor can prescribe safe and effective medication if needed. Medication can be a helpful part of depression and anxiety management 
  • Self-help: Books such as, The Feeling Good Handbook, by Dr. David Burns offer helpful exercises and suggestions to help you feel more in control of your mood symptoms. Websites such as youtube.com also offer a variety of guided meditations to help reduce and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety

Tips for family, friends and caregivers

Supportive family and friends can greatly help someone who is depressed. 

  • Remember that depression and anxiety is a disorder. It is not a personal weakness or failure. 
  • Encourage your friend or family member, with depression or anxiety, to get professional help. 
  • Get more information from support groups or organizations. 
  • Inform yourself and your family about depression and anxiety. 
  • Help your depressed or anxious friend or family member to follow their prescribed treatment plan and keep appointments. 
  • If medication is needed, make sure your friend or family member with depression or anxiety, takes it as prescribed. 
  • Encourage your friend or family member to follow recommended lifestyle changes.

For more information about depression


1. Reference:  Jiang W. Davidson JRT. Antidepressant therapy in patients with ischemic heart disease. American Heart Journal, November 2005. 150(5):871-881

2. Wei Jiang, M.D.,a,b Christopher O'Connor, M.D., FACC et al. Safety and Efficacy of Sertraline for Depression in Patients with CHR (SADHART-CHF): A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Sertraline for Major Depression with Congestive Heart Failure. Am Heart J. 2008 September; 156(3):437-444. Published online 2008 July 7

3. Blumenthal AA, Babyak MA, O'Connor C, et al. Effects of Exercise Training on Depressive Symptoms in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure: The HF-ACTION Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2012;308(5):465-474. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.8720

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