Heartfelt Training: Emotional Aspects of Administering CPR

It is human nature for everyone to want to help a person in need.. When it comes to lifesaving care, the stakes are higher for both the person receiving help and those extending their help. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a medical technique that saves hundreds of lives every day.

Keeping a person suffering a sudden cardiac arrest alive is an indescribably rewarding feeling, besides the fact that you’re practically enabling a victim’s heart to keep beating. However, there’s another side of the coin that hasn’t gotten a fair share of the debate. That’s the emotional aspect of administering CPR.

Stay with us as we cover some of the emotional aspects of saving a person’s life using CPR and the sentiments the good Samaritan experiences before, during, and after giving CPR.

The Lifesaving Technique Is a Rollercoaster of Emotions

Normally, the focus is on the person needing help during a sudden cardiac arrest. However, not much is discussed about how the circumstances affect both the victim and the rescuer. The person administering CPR concentrates on keeping the blood and oxygenation going, hoping to help the victim regain consciousness and keep their vital functions intact.

But what happens while the rescuer is focused on doing CPR? Well, there’s an array of emotions and uncertainties going through their mind, which could easily affect the course and outcomes of the CPR.

Identifying and addressing these states, from stress and anxiety to even more serious emotional conditions, is normal. Seeking support after doing CPR is understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. Debriefing sessions and counseling can help both the responder and the victim. When enrolled in a CPR training course in Tampa, participants will often be familiarized with coping techniques involving distressing emotions and emotional challenges.

Stress and Anxiety

Helping an unconscious person stay alive is outstandingly stressful and anxiety-triggering. Administering CPR to a person who’s having trouble breathing causes the rescuer to feel anxious not to make a mistake, follow the CPR steps correctly, and more.

Several situations that can trigger stress and anxiety:

    • the gravity of the situation involving CPR

    • the potential for the person’s life to stay in balance

    • the utter responsibility that comes with being someone’s chance to survive

Fear of Failing

One of the reasons lay people are hesitant to help an SCA victim is the fear of making a mistake. The fear of failing is one of the most common emotional responses that rescuers experience. Most people worry that if they do perform CPR on an SCA victim, they might not do it right and cause the victim more harm than good. This particular fear often leads to reluctance to give CPR.

The Emotional Toll

When administering CPR, the rescuer sees the victim as very vulnerable, often gasping for air or unconscious. Witnessing such a distressing sight can easily pose an emotional toll on the rescuer, leading to feelings of sadness, powerlessness, and even trauma.

Empathy and Connection

It isn’t uncommon for the SCA victim to be someone with a personal connection to the rescuer, like a family member, a friend, a spouse, or even a total stranger. This particular connection can easily complicate the situation and pressure the rescuer to do well. However, experiencing a sense of empathy can motivate the rescuer to act.

Satisfaction and Relief

A positive outcome involving an SCA victim and CPR can trigger certain feelings of relief and satisfaction. The rescuer might feel relieved that the person who received CPR will make it through. At the same time, they might feel satisfied they’ve helped someone stay alive.

Ethics and Decision-Making

When administering CPR, the person who does the resuscitation might face some serious decision-making efforts. For one, in a scenario where the victim’s odds of survival are rather low, the rescuer might have to ponder over whether to continue performing CPR or cease efforts. Making such decisions can cause emotional trauma, especially since they can be life-or-death decisions.

The Lingering Memories

Once the crisis has passed, it isn’t uncommon for the rescuer to reflect on the event. The moment of remembrance can include a variety of different emotions, both good and bad. Gratitude, relief, sadness, grief, and a greater appreciation for the frailty of life itself are some of them.

The Long-Term Impacts

People involved in stressful events, such as witnessing or doing CPR themselves, can experience continuing emotions. For example, a person who has acted as a good Samaritan and performed CPR on someone can experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Additionally, some lay responders have reportedly experienced difficulties sleeping, heightened feelings of anxiety, etc.

The Extent to Which CPR Affects Emotions

It goes without saying that CPR is already a stressful situation, even if the outcome is positive. The fact that an actual person is involved (rather than a mannequin you might have practiced on) makes the situation even more complex and overwhelming.

However, despite all efforts to resuscitate a person, they might not make it. In such a scenario, there’s a certain range of emotions responders feel, with trauma and distress being the most prominent ones. Knowing how to recognize particular emotions after administering CPR is a significant step forward to coping with them effectively. It’s important to understand that everything you might feel is valid. There isn’t a right or wrong way to feel after giving CPR on someone.

Some of the feelings you might experience include the following:

    • Brain fog

    • Shock

    • Hopelessness

    • Flashbacks

    • Anxiety

    • Depression

    • Self-blame, etc.

On the other hand, there are also physical symptoms associated to administering CPR, such as:

    • Heart racing

    • Insomnia

    • Nightmares

    • Exhaustion

    • Lack of focus, etc.

Emotional Crisis Is a Real Thing

Feeling an emotional crisis can happen to literally everyone, whether they’ve performed CPR recently, have helped look for a missing child, or tended to a sick child through the night. People who experience distressing situations hands-on, like administering CPR, can develop certain techniques and coping strategies to shield themselves from unsettling emotions.

If you suspect someone you know might be going through an emotional crisis, learn to acknowledge it. For some people, spending more time alone is a way to process an emotional crisis, so pushing them to go out and socialize might trigger a negative response.

Key Takeaway: The Emotional Aspects of Administering CPR

Being the one who helps to save a life is a priceless emotion, but there are always two sides to the story. Yes, you might feel empowered, satisfied, and relieved that you were able to help a person stay alive thanks to your CPR skills, but you might also experience a different set of emotions.

Shock, depression, stress, and anxiety are only some of the unsettling emotions that might overwhelm you. In those cases, it’s important to understand that what you are feeling is totally normal (you are only human, after all).

When you do feel differently, what matters is not to look away and deal with the situation. Talk to a friend, a family member, or even a support group. Venting is good for you, especially after being involved in a lifesaving situation involving another person.

You’re allowed to feel however you want to feel. What matters is that you helped, you did the best you could, and that is the bottom line.


How do I manage my emotions when doing CPR on someone I know?

Any situation involving emotions is a challenging one. Staying focused, remembering your training, and trusting your skills matters.

What if I’m too scared I’ll make a mistake doing CRP?

There is nothing wrong with feeling like that. What is important is that you remember that taking action is always better than not taking any action at all. Remember what you’ve learned in the CPR class, and focus all your attention on the steps.

Is it strange that I keep thinking about the time I did CPR?

No, it isn’t strange at all. In fact, a lot of people tend to reflect on the situation and play it back in their minds. It usually involves feelings about the uncertainty of life.