Is Depression a Problem With Heart Failure?

Yes. Depression occurs frequently in the general population and even more frequently in patients with diseases such as CHF. The worsening of symptoms of CHF has a detrimental effect on the patient’s lifestyle and ability to cope with daily living. The prevalence rates of depression in congestive heart failure patients range from 24 to 42 percent.

Depressed patients with CHF are admitted more frequently to the hospital, don’t function as well at home, and even die more frequently than CHF patients without depression. Because depression is a disorder that is easily missed by physicians because of its nonspecific symptoms, it should be brought to their attention by either the patient or the family or friends.

Common symptoms of depression that should be watched for include:

  • Changes in appetite.
  • Sudden loss or gain in weight.
  • Changes in sleep patterns (either sleeplessness or waking too early).
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and despair.
  • Mental and physical fatigue.
  • Inability to make decisions.
  • Withdrawal from others.
  • Lack of pleasure in once-pleasurable activities.
  • Thoughts of death and suicide.

When depression is identified, it can be treated and the quality of the patient’s life improved. Treatment for the CHF patient with depression is the same as for patients without CHF. Treatment strategies include psychological counseling, education, frequent patient monitoring, and medications. These have a high success rate.