Anger / Guilt

When confronted with their condition many heart patients experience anger. The anger can be directed at others or at themselves. Anger directed at ourselves is guilt.

They may have feelings of rage, life being unfair, blame others, guilt, self blame. Often described as feeling “numb”, not able to concentrate or take in doctor’s information.

Anger is a normal human emotion. We feel anger when we have been offended or not treated fairly. Many people believe life should be "fair".  While it may be a belief it is not reality. Fairness has nothing to do with a heart event and yet many people believe it should be.

When our beliefs are challenged, tested or are not confirmed we become angry. If we believe that "good" people deserve to have "good" things happen and not "bad" things then we get angry when that does not occur.

"It just isn't fair" is a common statement by heart patients or those close to them. 

The reality is that "fairness" plays no part in heart events.

Anger management is important for heart patients for similar reasons as to why stress management is important.

The person most affected by anger is the person who is angry. The physical effects of anger give rise to high blood pressure, raised glucose levels, gastric and muscular problems. The effects of anger on the body are the same as those for stress. The other people impacted by anger are those closest to the angry person. It often affects their relationship and treatment of each other.

Anger is not a good emotion for heart patients.

The anger stage of stress is usually short but should it continue you should seek help.

(See Stress Management)

Guilt is anger directed at oneself. Many heart patients feel guilty about their heart problems. Guilty at their actions which may have contributed to the condition (smoking, diet, exercise etc.)

Patients also feel guilty because of the impact the event is having on their families or those close to them.

Anger Behaviours

- questionning "why me"?

- feeling life is unfair

- irritable

- fits of anger

- self-blaming

- mood swings

- difficult to deal with

- irrational

- closed off

Anger - Guilt Example

Mary was a heart attack victim and expressed a feeling of "intense anger" four weeks after her heart attack. She said she was an athlete at olympic level who had been brought up a vegetarian. She never smoked, never ate fatty food, exercised daily, and stated she "went to church twice on Sundays". As an athlete at the highest level she had the very best medical and nutritional advice throughout her life.

Mary stated, "and guess where I had my heart attack, the front row of church on Sunday morning". Mary said she would never go into a church again and would never trust a medical practitioner again! She felt devastated, alone and betrayed by those she trusted. She stated she was not an "angry type" but she felt she could not control her anger at present. It lived with her all day.

Mary felt that if she "did the right things life would be kind to her as her God was fair and she trusted the medical profession to protect her".

Three weeks later Mary was back at church, had an appointment with her cardiologist and was happy and enthusiastic about life. She stated that she had been totally surprised by her reaction but agreed that maybe she had to "rethink just how complex life was after all".

© Len Gould 2019 Heartemotions (Version V210118)