1/1. Denial and rehabilitation of the post-infarction patient.The use of denial has been widely accepted as an adaptive and protective coping mechanism in the acute phase of myocardial infarction. Although instrumental in lowering anxiety and mortality in the acute phase of coronary care, the use of denial creates hazards for the patient in convalescence. These hazards, not well known to intensive care personnel but all too apparent to the liaison psychiatrist working in cardiovascular rehabilitation, include a high vulnerability to disruptive anxiety and even psychosis at times of transition from greater to lesser intensity nursing care and a maladaptive resistance to rehabilitation efforts in convalescence. Failure of denial under the stress of transition may produce a transient paranoid psychosis with a clear sensorium, a variant of Abram's "cardiac psychosis." maintenance of the defense in convalescence leads to noncompliance with medical advice and rejection of rehabilitation efforts, increasing the risk of reinfarction. A case report is presented illustrating both hazards. Recommendations for management include early recognition, supportive psychotherapy, education and mobilization in the acute phase of coronary care. Cardiovascular conditioning and reshaping of risk factors follow in convalescence. The physical and psychological benefits of this approach are reviewed. The adaptive value of denial in coronary patients is challenged from the long-term perspective of rehabilitation.
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keywords = psychotherapy
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