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ACHD Psychology

The Social and Emotional impact of Congenital Heart Disease

People with congenital heart disease (CHD) experience unique challenges such as: frequent medical tests and repeated surgical procedures; uncertainty about the course of the condition and how it will impact on their lives; missed school or work for medical reasons; and struggles with family planning. This can lead people to experience a range of emotions including worry, anxiety, sadness, fear and anger. All of these emotions (and many more) are very normal and completely understandable.

However, these emotions can be difficult for people to manage and may impact on things that are important to them such as, hobbies, work, study and relationships. Some patients may find it more challenging to cope in certain situations than others, for example around times when they require surgery or a medical procedure. Research has shown that approximately a third of people with CHD will experience significant anxiety and depression. When people feel very anxious or depressed it can be especially hard to manage their condition, attend appointments, take medications or prepare for medical procedures.

Psychological Health Services into ACHD services

Psychological Health Services within UHBW can provide support to you if you are an inpatient or outpatient and have concerns or worries related to your congenital heart condition. For example support may be helpful if:

  • Your CHD is having a negative impact on your day to day activities or is getting in the way of you managing your condition or treatment.
  • You are having difficulty coping with changes in your health or upcoming medical treatment, which may include having an MRI, ICD implantation, catheter procedure or cardiac surgery.
  • You have a fear of needles which makes it difficult to have a blood test
  • You are having difficulty coping with a long admission.
  • You are having difficulty coping with physical issues such as scars or symptoms such as pain, breathlessness, and tiredness.
  • You have concerns or worries related to your ICD or pacemaker.
  • Experiences of past medical interventions are having an impact on how you are coping with your current treatment/care
  • You are having difficulty coping with a high risk pregnancy related to your CHD
  • You would like additional support if you have learning needs and are accessing treatment
  • You would like support in making complex decisions about your treatment and care.

For more information on our services, the support we provide and how to be referred please click here.

If you are struggling with mental health difficulties unrelated to your cardiac condition it is recommended you speak to your GP and look at our support resources on the network website. 

How do I arrange to see a clinical psychologist?

If you feel that support from the psychology service would be helpful you can speak to one of the clinical nurse specialists at the Bristol Heart Institute or your cardiologist about a referral to Psychological Health Services in Adult Congenital Heart Disease in your clinic appointment. Alternatively, you can contact the clinical nurse specialists on : 0117 342 6599.

Once a referral has been made you will be contacted by the psychologist to make an initial appointment. Telephone appointments can be arranged for patients who live a long distance from Bristol although it is asked that you attend the first session face to face.