Heart Failure and Your Emotions

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 14, 2023
3 min read

The effects of heart failure on your body -- like shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling -- are easy to see. What’s not as obvious is the toll a weakened heart can take on your emotions.

Living with this condition can stir up a whole range of feelings, from fear and sadness to anxiety, depression, and even anger. And when you let them simmer, they can cause even more damage to your heart -- and make it harder to treat.

Research shows people with positive outlooks are more likely to take their medicine. They also stick to heart-healthy habits like eating nutritious food and exercise.

Managing your emotions is one way to gain more control so you can start to feel better.

When you're diagnosed with a long-term disease like heart failure, it's normal to feel a lot of different emotions, including:

  • Fear about the future
  • Worry you'll lose control over your health
  • Anger that you have heart failure, or that it interferes with your life
  • Stress over your ability to manage your condition
  • Loneliness because you worry other people don't understand what you're going through

If you have these feelings and let them build up, it could make matters worse. Stress and anger can raise your blood pressure and make your heart work even harder. Both can be as bad for your heart as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Depression – which includes feeling sad for at least 2 weeks -- affects up to 70% of people with heart failure. If you don’t treat your depression, it might be harder for you to control your heart disease.

Women are more likely than men to say that they feel stressed and depressed. Men can feel that way, too, but they may be less likely to say so.

One of the best ways to deal with emotions like depression, anxiety, or anger is to talk about them. Turn to friends, family, co-workers, and members of your religious group for a caring shoulder to lean on.

Also, try these tips to help you manage your emotions:

Know what you're dealing with. When you understand heart failure it will seem less scary. Ask your doctor about the disease and its outlook. Find out what you can do to help yourself feel better.

Relax. A long walk, warm bath, or massage can do wonders. Do whatever makes you unwind and be happy.

Exercise. A workout is a great way to perk you up when you're anxious or down. And it can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Just talk to your doctor first about what exercise is right for you.

Avoid bad habits. Alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs might make you feel better for a short time, but they can make your heart disease worse in the long run.

Be positive. Try to find hope in your situation. Focus on what you can do. Set goals and work toward them to give yourself a sense of purpose.

Don't ignore it. Watch out for the signs so you can get treated. Sometimes the symptoms aren't what you expect. Along with sadness, you might have:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Appetite loss
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much

If these symptoms last for more than two weeks, discuss them with your doctor, a psychologist, or a therapist. The doctor might recommend treatments such as counseling or talk therapy, an antidepressant, or both.