Feeling Down

Woman depressed

Have you been feeling sad, blue, down, or depressed recently? Do you feel like your glass is half-empty rather than half-full? A lot of people who have heart failure feel this way. Learn more about why you might be feeling this way by using our information below.

Is it normal that I've been feeling down recently?

People suffering with heart failure may also be more likely to feel sad, down, or blue than otherwise healthy people. Although research has not been able to determine why this occurs, research has shown that symptoms of depression may reduce your overall physical and mental well-being, which can make the symptoms of heart failure worse. Read more about depression and heart failure by clicking here.

How do I know if I'm experiencing depression?

Although symptoms of heart failure can overlap with depression, you may be experiencing depression if you notice a pattern of the following signs and symptoms on most days of the week.

  • Feeling sad, blue, or depressed.
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling fatigued all the time
  • Bloating/Water Retention
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Overeating or a loss of appetite
  • Thoughts about death
  • Aches, pains, and digestive problems that do not resolve with treatment.

Why is it important that I treat my depression?

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is extremely important that you seek treatment as soon as possible.

Depression is detrimental to your physical health, and may amplify or worsen your symptoms of heart failure. Depression may also affect your interest in exercise or taking your medications properly, putting your own health and well-being at risk.

Who should I talk to about my depression?

You have many options about who you can confide in regarding the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. You may feel comfortable talking about how you’ve been feeling with a family member, your spouse, a friend, your PCP or cardiologist. If you are interested in finding professional help for your depression, you may want to discuss treatment options with your doctor.

Although it can be a difficult topic to discuss, keep in mind that 20-25% of heart failure patients experience depression. Your family and friends will likely be grateful that you decided to take the initiative to improve your physical health and emotional well-being.

What are my treatment options?

You have several options to treat your depression, including:

  • Lifestyle: Add healthy sleep, diet, and exercise habits. Engage in social activities with friends and family.
  • Medication: Certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can treat your depression. Commonly prescribed medications include citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), and fluoxetine (Prozac). Read more about these medications here.
  • The Beating the Blues program: This computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy program can be done at your convenience anywhere that you have internet access. If you are a member of the UPMC Health Plan, learn how to get your free program access code by clicking here.
  • Psychotherapy: A trained mental health professional can help you change your negative thinking styles and behaviors that contribute to your depression. Find a therapist in your neighborhood by clicking here.

What lifestyle changes can I make to treat my depression?

  1. Increase your activity levels. Physical activity can improve your cardiovascular health, boost your mood, reduce your stress and also improve your sleep. See this New York Times article about the benefits of exercise on treating depression in patients with heart failure.
  2. Keep a heart-healthy diet. You are what you eat. Try to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins, while limiting foods high in sodium, highly processed and junk foods. Find more information from the American Heart Association about keeping a heart-healthy diet.
  3. Get to bed on time. A regular sleeping schedule is fundamental to feeling well. Lack of sleep can make you feel more depressed, and it can also worsen cardiac symptoms associated with heart failure. Try improving your sleep by following these sleep hygiene tips.
  4. Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol is a natural depressant and can make you feel worse. Read more about alcohol and your heart health, and find tips to reduce your alcohol intake by clicking here.
  5. Quit smoking. Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels. Contact the PA Quit Line at 1-800-784-8669 to speak with a smoking cessation counselor.
  6. Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant found in coffee, soft drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine can make you feel more tense and jittery, while also disrupting your sleep. Find tips to reduce your caffeine intake by clicking here.
  7. Increase social engagement. You may find that spending time with your immediate family, friends, relatives, neighbors, or even fellow members of your church or community group will make you feel less depressed, isolated, and stressed out. If you feel that you don’t have anyone to spend time with, you may want to consider reaching out to your Hopeful Heart nurse for suggestions.