Can a heart attack change someone’s personality? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Can a heart attack change someone’s personality?” and explore the various aspects of heart attack and personality and their relationship to help understand the answer. 

Can a heart attack change someone’s personality?

Yes, a heart attack can change someone’s personality. The following are 3 insights into how a heart attack can change someone’s personality –

  • A heart attack might lead to personality changes due to unusual behaviour.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Treatment. 

What are these 3 insights into how a heart attack can change someone’s personality?

A heart attack might lead to personality changes due to unusual behaviour.

A heart attack is one of the medical situations that might lead to personality changes due to weird or unusual behaviour.

The notion of type A behaviour, a mix of anger, impatience, competition, and dominance, originally gained traction in the field of coronary heart disease (CHD) about 50 years ago.

When type A behaviour was investigated in many nations and social groups, it was shown that it was not a reliable predictor of coronary heart disease, and subsequent research has concentrated on negative affectivity qualities such as sadness, anxiety, and anger–hostility.

These dispositions have been associated with cardiovascular disease and death in a variety of observational epidemiological and experimental investigations, and a number of intervening behavioural and biological processes have been postulated to explain the relationship.

However, results haven’t been consistent across all of these negative affective qualities, and there’s still a disagreement about whether anger, anxiety and depression are separate phenomena or if they represent a general proclivity for bad moods and dysphoria.

Depression and anxiety.

Depression appears to be both an independent predictor of future CHD and a factor of morbidity, adaptability, and quality of life following acute coronary syndrome and coronary artery bypass surgery, according to the strongest evidence.

Biological processes such as heightened vascular inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and disturbed autonomic tone, as well as behavioural factors such as physical inactivity, smoking, and failure to follow medication and clinical advice, are among the pathways through which a depressed mood may be linked to cardiovascular disease.

While feeling anxious or melancholy after a heart attack is typical, these feelings are usually only short. Some people, however, may remain sad for weeks following a heart attack.

Up to 33% of persons who have suffered a heart attack report some form of depression. While our moods and behaviour fluctuate normally, someone with a personality change may not be acting like themselves and may exhibit drastic behavioural changes.

Some of the symptoms of a personality change are –

  • New symptoms of anxiety or changes in mood.
  • Anger threshold.
  • Insensitive or rude behaviour.
  • Impulsive behaviour.
  • Delusions.

Treatment. 

Once a physical illness is addressed, a personality change induced by it may go away. However, in certain circumstances, it will not go away even if the underlying illness is treated.

Depending on the reason, your disease may be treated independently with mood-altering drugs. If you have a hormonal imbalance, your personality change may go away after you start taking the prescribed hormone-balancing drugs. 

Progesterone injections, replacement oestrogen, and low-dose birth control tablets are all regularly recommended drugs. A mix of mood-altering drugs and counselling may be used to address mental health issues. 

Medications are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar illness. A full-fledged heart attack is typically a life-changing experience. 

It is fairly uncommon for heart attack survivors to experience a wide range of emotions, including melancholy, anxiety, sorrow, and grief. During the period leading up to the heart attack, the patient may experience negative emotions. 

They go through a quick emotional transformation during a heart attack, which includes an increase in rage and feelings of needing to survive.

What is personality change?

Personality characteristics are broad categories of individual variations that relate to how we interact with our social environments. They support our ability to think, behave, and feel consistently in a variety of contexts and across time.

Early childhood temperament variations, which are partially genetically driven and influence exposure to social situations, are assumed to be the source of adult personality characteristics. There are five personality dimensions in all.

The five factors are: “extraversion or positive emotionality (incorporating traits such as sociability, energy, shyness and dominance/subordination); neuroticism or negative emotionality (including lower‐order traits such as proneness to anxiety, irritability, sadness, insecurity and guilt); conscientiousness (factors such as reliability, carefulness, persistence and self‐control); agreeableness (cooperativeness, consideration, generosity, kindness and politeness); and openness to experience (imaginativeness, insight and aesthetic sensitivity)”. 

Individuals differ in all of these characteristics, therefore each individual is regarded to have a unique set of traits. Personality factors influence the quality of social and familial connections, marital status and satisfaction, career choices, political opinions, and crime with moderate consistency.

Your personality might evolve during the course of your life. It’s natural to have mood swings from time to time. Unusual personality changes, on the other hand, might be an indication of a physical or mental problem.

A personality shift can manifest itself in a number of ways –

  • A personality shift is indicated by behaviour that differs from how you would normally behave in the same situation.
  • A person’s mood, aggression, or euphoria are abnormally moody, aggressive, or euphoric in comparison to their regular behaviour in comparable conditions, indicating a personality shift.

Examples of personality change –

  • Being unconcerned in conditions that would typically induce anxiety or worry.
  • Being glad when hearing bad news.

What can cause a sudden personality change?

While a gradual shift in personality isn’t uncommon, an accident or sickness might create an abrupt transformation.

A generally joyful individual might become depressed as a result of grief, unpleasant news, or disappointment. After hearing the sad news, a person’s mood might be affected for weeks or months.

Some people have had bizarre or aberrant behaviour for years, which might be caused by disease or injury. After being exposed to a stressful scenario or seeing an unpleasant incident, a person’s demeanour may shift.

These behavioural changes may be caused by a mental health condition, such as –

Anxiety.

When a person feels apprehensive or unpleasant about a situation, they are said to be anxious. It’s natural to feel anxious from time to time, but when it happens without warning, it might be an indication of generalised anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks.

Panic episodes are intense bouts of dread. Fear might appear to be illogical at times. A person suffering a panic attack while seeing an elevator or speaking in public is an example of such a circumstance.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.

This mental health disease, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is characterised by acute terror, flashbacks, and, in some cases, hallucinations. Traumatic memories, such as a terrorist attack or a vehicle accident, might cause PTSD.

Bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings that are intense. Mood swings may range from exhilaration to severe sadness, and they might modify how a person reacts to specific encounters or events, depending on their mood.

Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia makes it difficult to think clearly, interpret circumstances efficiently, behave appropriately in social situations, and discern what is genuine from what isn’t.

Strange or odd behaviour might be caused by medical problems that cause hormone levels to fluctuate. These conditions include –

  • menopause
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • andropause (male menopause)
  • hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, respectively)

Medical emergencies that can cause strange or unusual behaviour include-

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Can a heart attack change someone’s personality?” and reviewed the different aspects of heart attack and personality and their relationship to help determine if a heart attack can cause a personality change in someone. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Legg, T. J.  Everything You Want to Know About Personality Change. (2019, December 4). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/behavior-unusual-or-strange#:~:text=Personality%20changes%20after%20heart%20attack,weeks%20after%20the%20heart%20attack.

Lane, A.M., & Godfrey, R. Emotional and Cognitive Changes During and Post a Near Fatal Heart Attack and One-Year After: A Case Study. (2010, September 1). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761709/

Steptoe, A., & Molloy, G.J . Personality and heart disease. (2007, July). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994437/

Smith, P. Personality Change After Heart Attack? (2012,  August 21). Retrieved from https://spryliving.com/articles/personality-change-after-heart-attack/

Steptoe, A. Coping with a heart event: your questions answered. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/wellbeing/mental-health/emotional-impact

Cardiac Rehabilitation – Psychological effects of a heart attack. Derbyshire Community Health Services. (2012, April). Retrieved from https://my.dchs.nhs.uk/Portals/0/Health%20Psychology%20Cardiac%20Rehabilitation%20-%20Psychological%20effects%20of%20a%20heart%20attacks.pdf

Watson, S. Heart Failure and Your Emotions. (2021,  February 4). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/heart-failure-your-emotions

Conditions That Can Change Your Personality. WebMD. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/ss/slideshow-conditions-change-personality

Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, May 6). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/mentalhealth.htm

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack. Heart Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/recovery-and-support/feelings-and-emotions-after-a-heart-attack

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