ICD and Anxiety.

GwentDefibbers had the opportunity to meet with Professor Paul Bennett at the December group meeting which took place in St Woolos hospital, Newport.

Professor Bennett works with the Department of Psychology at Swansea University and we thank him for coming to chat with our group.

He has a particular interest in individuals who have an Implantable Cardioverter  Defibrillator (ICD) in place and especially with those who suffer anxiety and increased stress because of heart health and implanted cardiac device.

Pictured with Sandra and Mike is Professor Paul Bennett.



To ENLARGE click on image.

The professor explained that his team were trying to identify common causes of anxiety and questions that individuals might ask pre and post ICD implant so that eventually an appropriate information leaflet/booklet could be produced.

It had been noted by many in the group that although the available booklets gave a broad overview of the device the real ‘nitty gritty’ questions that were uppermost in people’s mind were frequently left unanswered. Many people in the group thought that the booklets were too technical.

The meeting was intended as a 2 way process and individuals were encouraged to ask questions. Some questions and answers included…..

Group member 1– described his collapse, admission to hospital, investigations including constant monitoring on the ward, then receiving the ICD implant only to then ‘suddenly’  be released back out in to his normal environment. He described feeling very alone and scared. His partner described how she felt great weight of responsibility for him.

The Professor referred to a study whereby a group participated in treadmill exercise and this was observed by the partner(s). This helped the partner(s) appreciate what the other was actually capable of doing and feedback was positive. This demonstrates the importance of encouraging family / friends to participate in the rehabilitation programme.

Group member 2 –  described suffering horrendous panic attacks. The sensations of panic were similar to the feelings experienced prior to his ICD firing.  He was unable to differentiate between the two and desperately asked for help.

The Professor explained about hyperventilation / over breathing that although it can feel as if you don’t have enough oxygen, the opposite is true. He informed us of a simple exercise which would help counteract hyperventilation which was to Breathe in and out of a paper bag. This would cause you to re-inhale the carbon dioxide that you exhaled thus help to relieve the effects of the panic attack.

Another exercise is a ‘belly breathing exercise’ …

   Place one hand on your chest & the other hand on your stomach.

  1. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  3. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Group member 3 – had only had his ICD within the past few weeks and was extremely anxious about what he could/could not do.  He was particularly nervous in case the slightest exertion would cause the device to fire.

Mike explained to him about the ‘trigger rate’  that his device was set at and was only likely to fire if it was in that zone. He was reassured by this chat and this is a reminder that ICD recipients can frequently find reassurance with members who experience the same fears as themselves.

And finally…..

The Professor briefly discussed a mind-body approach to well being which can help to reduce anxiety and stress. The technique is called ‘mindfulness’ and I enclose a link which offers a lot of information at http://bemindful.co.uk/

Professor Bennett explained about various studies that had been undertaken regarding stress and cardiac disease.  He appreciated that many patients found numerous questionnaires tiresome but hopefully all this research would eventually offer very positive results for people like us or those in similar situations.

If anybody would like to know more about the research that is being undertaken or who would like the opportunity to participate in a study then please contact the Professor at –

Professor Paul Bennett, Department of Psychology, College of Human and Health Sciences, Vivian Tower, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom.

Telephone: (01792) 606830

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