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Heart Disease More Likely If You Are Isolated and Restrict Your Emotions

Posted Oct 24 2010 5:36pm


Early Retirement brings on Depressionand Dread
Depression hit Dora hard a month after the good-bye party her colleagues hosted to honor her thirty years as one of their most successful publicists. She felt tired and uninterested in all the plans her husband had made for their time together.  All she wanted to do was eat, sleep and watch adverts on television that kept her linked to her professional identity.

Leaving her job brought on depression
Early retirment from her job was sad and scary for Dora. She worried about her marriage and life with at home. She wasn’t one for socializing in her personal life, unlike Derek her spouse of twenty-five years who was an extrovert and had a full and active social life. Where Dora had a black outlook on life outside work, Derek was optimistic, open to new experiences and loved being with people. Dora kept her feelings close to her chest. She rarely shared her concerns, fears or needs with Derek, let alone any other family members or friends. Derek on the other hand exchanged views and feelings freely, benefiting from a mutually supportive network.  

Derek has a lower risk factor than his wife because of his sociability. Dora has a much higher chance of suffering from Ischemic heart disease (reduced blood supply to heart muscles) chronic heart failure and peripheral heart disease because she has type D personality as reported by The Journal ofpsychosomatic Research  in 2007.

Risk of Heart Disease Increased with Type D Personality

T he journal Current Cardiology Reviews 2006, reported on a body of evidence showing the significant influence of Type D personality on contracting heart disease and a two-five fold poorer prognosis when treated. Type D personality makes Dora  four times more likely to have severe long term outcomes or die if she gets ischemic heart disease.

Type D personality is a risk factor for disease in  healthy individuals
Type D personality describes what is known as ‘distressed’ personality. People with Type D personality have a negative outlook on life and are socially inhibited. Type D personality individuals like Dora tend to experience more negative than positive emotions, often feel unhappy, tend to worry, get easily irritated, keep others at a distance, are closed off, reserved and restrict their emotions in social situations. “Type D personality is a vulnerability factor for general psychological distress that affects mental and physical health status and is associated with disease-promoting mechanisms and work-related problems in apparently healthy individuals” say the authors of  an article in a  2010 issue of Health Quality Life Outcomes.

Derek has a much lower chance of getting heart disease because of his openness in social situations and his willingness to share his thoughts and feelings without worrying about the reactions he may get. He is more trusting of others and values camaraderie.  Derek’s more cheerful personality makes it more likely that the quality of marriage will be poorer for Dora. She gains no benefit from Derek’s more outgoing nature, since she doesn’t share her emotions with him. Far from compensating for Dora’s reservedness, Derek’s lack of inhibition makes her retreat even more, as she fears his dismissal of her anxieties, reported the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2010.

Sharing activities can bring connection and lower risk of heart disease
Dora’s Type D personality can make her more depressed as she settles into retirement. Without the structure of her job, her self-esteem can plummet to an all time low. But she can take steps to minimize her risk of heart disease and depression. Dora can join her husband in doing small tasks around the house. When Derek shares his emotions as they do something together, Dora can share a feeling of her own and test out the waters. She can notice Derek’s curiosity rather than judgment.


Dora can also  begin spending time volunteering with children. Children are the most honest and least critical of individuals. Dora can share her experiences, wisdom, fear and excitement with her grandchildren, boosting her self-esteem in the process. A better sense of self-worth will reduce the likelihood of depression. Sharing her inner life with loved ones gradually will fill the emptiness left by her leaving her job, and make heart disease a low risk factor.

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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