Does a heart bypass change a person’s personality? (3 ways)

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

Does a heart bypass change a person’s personality?

Yes, a heart bypass can change a person’s personality. According to a February research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, up to 42% of individuals who receive a bypass may be predicted to perform considerably worse on mental ability tests five years later. Other side effects include personality changes, memory issues, and impatience.

A heart bypass can change a person’s personality in the following 3 ways –

  • Anxiety and Mood Disorders.
  • Depression.
  • Prescriptions for Strong Addictive Substances.

These 3 ways a heart bypass can change a person’s personality will be discussed in further detail below after taking an in-depth look at personality and personality change. 

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

What are these 3 ways a heart bypass can change a person’s personality?

Anxiety and Mood Disorders. 

Living with and through the physical side effects of open-heart surgery can be difficult. Ache at the incision site, muscular pain, and throat pain are all included. 

If you have chest tubes for drainage, these might be painful as well. Despite the discomfort, post-surgical pain normally subsides within 6–8 weeks. Other types of issues, on the other hand, might remain.

People who have had open-heart surgery, as well as those close to them, describe mood changes. Anxiety and despair are the most prevalent feelings encountered following cardiac surgery. 

Anxiety might be exacerbated in part by concerns about probable physical side effects of the procedure. It is important to remember that full recovery from open-heart surgery might take up to a year.

Depression.

Patients who feel sadness for more than a few weeks following open-heart surgery may be suffering from something more serious than a standard post-operative mood alteration. 

One sign is if a person has trouble performing ordinary everyday chores such as making their bed, getting and staying properly clothed, or sticking to a schedule. 

Is an individual following through on post-surgery instructions to perform things like exercise? Has the individual cut off touch with others or suggested suicide?

Prescriptions for Strong Addictive Substances.

If you have been using prescription medication for post-surgical pain, such as Oxycontin, speak with your doctor about discontinuing the drug. Oxycontin, like other types of pain relievers, can be addictive. Don’t make your rehabilitation any more difficult by having a drug issue. 

It may come as a surprise that exercise may help your body heal after surgery as well as wean you off of medication. You will not begin with weightlifting or anything else strenuous. 

Initially, walking, yoga, or stretching will suffice. Exercise not only strengthens your body but also releases compounds such as hormones that make you feel wonderful.

Emotional changes following cardiac surgery are frequent, as are spells of irritation and weariness. Changes in mood can sometimes be induced by medicine in the aftermath of surgery, rather than by the operation itself. 

If the mood swings continue, the first step is to contact the doctor(s) who conducted the operation. These doctors would have encountered similar post-surgical complications before. They can either advise you on what type of therapy is required or recommend you to someone who can.

Surgery to save your heart may endanger your brain. Two new pieces of research add to the growing body of evidence that cardiac bypass surgery may have long-term psychological consequences.

In the United States, about 500,000 heart bypass procedures are performed each year to restore blood flow to the heart. 

While past research has revealed that many of these patients have some form of mental impairment or reduced brain function for up to six months following surgery, such effects have been difficult to quantify.

Researchers claim these studies provide additional evidence that the technique can alter the brain in both the short and long term by evaluating scans of patients’ brains before and after heart bypass surgery.

A team of German researchers evaluated 35 people under the age of 70 who underwent cardiac bypass surgery in the first study, which was published in the July 2002 edition of The Archives of Neurology.

Before and after the operation, brain scans were performed, as well as a battery of tests to assess focus, attention, short-term memory, and hand-eye coordination.

In 26% of the patients, researchers discovered new regions of the brain with lower blood flow following the bypass. The presence of these lesions, however, was not related to any specific sort of impairment, according to the skills assessments.

The scans also indicated alterations in how the brain reacted to different substances, indicating cell destruction. Patients with these modifications performed worse on cognitive tests at first, but their brain function reverted to normal after 10-14 days of surgery.

According to study researcher Martin Bendszus, MD, of the University of Wurzburg in Wurzburg, Germany, and colleagues, the transient reduction in brain function may have been caused by inflammation in the brain produced by the operation. 

Furthermore, utilising a heart/lung machine to pump blood during surgery may cause microscopic air bubbles in the blood, which might cause short-term brain damage.

A second study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington discovered that these harmful effects on the brain might linger for weeks following surgery.

They compared the outcomes of 39 patients’ brain function one to two days before surgery and three to four weeks thereafter to those of 49 healthy persons. Their findings were published in the July edition of Neuropsychology.

The researchers discovered significant changes in how the two groups fared on attention and memory tasks before and after the procedure. Prior to the treatment, bypass patients performed worse on memory tests, although researchers ascribe the disparities to both pre-surgery anxiety and underlying heart illness.

After the operation, the comparison group outperformed the bypass patients on two critical attention and memory tests. According to the study’s authors, this data validates the idea that the brain systems that sustain attention are particularly vulnerable to injury since they are among the most complex.

According to researchers, coronary bypass surgery, like many major surgeries, exposes the brain and nervous system to unexpected stressors such as inflammation, lack of oxygen, reduced body temperature, and powerful anaesthetic medicines, all of which can impair brain function.

Conclusion – 

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

References –

Favaro, A. Fighting Coronary Bypass Mental Decline. (2006, January 6).  Retrieved from  https://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117369&page=1#:~:text=A%20study%20in%20the%20New,changes%2C%20memory%20problems%20and%20irritability.

Rudolph, J. L. Can Heart Surgery Change a Person’s Personality? (2014, March 1). Retrieved from  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-heart-surgery-change-a-persons-personality/

Dashnaw, D. Personality Change After Heart Surgery. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.couplestherapyinc.com/personality-change-after-open-heart-surgery/

GPs urged to tell patients about the ‘cardiac blues’. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). (2018, May 29). Retrieved from  https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/gps-urged-to-tell-patients-about-the-%E2%80%98cardiac-blue

Ciuffo, G. B. Emotional Side Effects of Open-Heart Surgery. (2022, February 15). Retrieved from  https://heartsurgeryinfo.com/emotional-side-effects-of-open-heart-surgery/

Why is there a personality change after open heart surgery? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.quora.com/Why-is-there-a-personality-change-after-open-heart-surgery

Brain May Suffer Long After Heart Bypass. WebMD. (2002, July 15). Retrieved from  https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20020715/brain-may-suffer-long-after-heart-bypass

Heart surgery and personality changes. Cardiac Health. (2012, April 2). Retrieved from  https://www.cardiachealth.org/heart-surgery-and-personality-changes/

Younes, O., Amer, R., Fawzy, H. et al. Psychiatric disturbances in patients undergoing open-heart surgery. Middle East Curr Psychiatry 26, 4 (2019). Retrieved from  https://mecp.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s43045-019-0004-9

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