Treatment of phantom shocks: A case report

Danielle R. Hairston, Ralph H. de Similien, Seth Himelhoch, Anique Forrester

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators have become standard preventive treatment for patients with ventricular arrhythmias and other life-threatening cardiac conditions. The advantages and efficiency of the device are supported by multiple clinical trials and outcome studies, leading to its popularity among cardiologists. Implantation of the device is not without adverse outcomes. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator placement has been found to lead to negative psychological and psychosocial sequelae such as apprehension to engage in physical activity, chronic anxiety, decreased physical and social functioning, a nagging fear of being shocked by the device, and the development of “phantom shocks.” Defined as patient-reported shocks in the absence of evidence that the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator device has discharged, phantom shocks could impact the mental health of those affected. This article reviews the case of Mr. L, a 47-year-old man with ischemic cardiomyopathy who was seen by the psychiatry consultation team while under cardiologic care because he reported that his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator device had been shocking him despite no objective evidence after interrogating the device. A literature review of phantom shocks, their associated symptomatology, and psychological consequences are outlined and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-187
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • implantable cardioverter-defibrillators
  • phantom shocks
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • shock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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