Since its approval in 1985, the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) has supplanted antiarrhythmic drugs as the standard of care for patients with potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmias. The increased popularity of ICDs stems primarily from their safety and tolerability compared with commonly used medications notorious for adverse drug reactions. As ICD indications have broadened, the number of implantations has increased substantially, and more attention has been directed to sequelae of implantation, particularly after ICD firing. Although scant, studies of quality of life and psychiatric symptoms in patients with ICDs consistently report assorted psychiatric disturbances affecting up to 87% of recipients. Degression and anxiety predominate: up to 38% of patients experience symptoms that meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. Psychological theories such as the classic conditioning model, learned helplessness model, and cognitive appraisal model have been invoked to conceptualize these new-onset ICD-induced anxiety disorders. Small trials of psychosocial interventions, including support groups and cognitive behavioral therapy, have had mixed results. Little is known about preexisting anxiety disorders in ICD recipients, particularly which premorbid features predict a worse prognosis, other than suggestions that younger patients and those receiving multiple shocks are at greater risk. Prospective studies of the psychopathology of patients with ICDs, both before and after implantation, are warranted.
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