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Many adults with congenital heart disease (ACHD) have to face considerable psychosocial difficulties. The aim of this study was to explore the life experiences of ACHD patients, from when they become aware of having a condition, till after the open heart surgery they underwent. The study was conducted with the use of unstructured, in-depth interviews, performed on 11 patients (age ranging: 20 - 56 y) after they recovered from open heart surgery and a focus group, which included 16 participants (age ranging: 22 - 46 y). Both the interviews and the focus group were recorded, transcribed and analyzed according to Grounded Theory procedures. Our findings show that the condition of diversity is the core of the emotional experiences connected to ACHD. Feeling different and being perceived as being different are clearly interlinked and coping strategies adopted resulted as being influenced by this perception. This study also clearly outlines the importance of having an adequate perception of one’s condition and the link between maladaptive coping strategies and an incorrect perception of one’s heart condition. Results are discussed in order to promote psychosocial interventions within and outside of the hospital setting in order to improve the patients’ emotional wellbeing.
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