Living with the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can often lead to increased stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Learning to be aware of any emotional changes and how to navigate them is important in living a healthy life.
Learn the Signs of Anxiety and Depression
Both anxiety and depression are more common in those with COPD than in those without. It can also often go untreated if it is not recognized by patients or providers.
People with COPD often suffer from shortness of breath, which can increase the feeling of anxiety and may lead to clinical anxiety. Clinical anxiety is defined as constant worrying and anticipating the worst in a way that makes it hard to function. There are several different types of anxiety disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and social anxiety. Signs of an anxiety disorder can be physical—cold or sweaty hands, dry mouth, heart palpitations, nausea, muscle tension, shortness of breath—or mental—feeling panic or fear, nightmares, obsessive thoughts, or trouble sleeping. Seeing a mental health professional can help you to determine which form of anxiety you are suffering from and create a treatment plan.
Because of the ongoing stress that can be caused by COPD, people often suffer from depression as well. Depression can also be caused by a genetic predisposition. Clinical depression is defined as a feeling of deep sadness or emptiness that lasts longer than a couple of weeks. Like anxiety disorders, there are many different forms of depression, including Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bipolar Disorder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of depression include feeling very sad, hopeless, or worried; not enjoying things you used to enjoy; being easily irritated or frustrated; eating too much or too little; not sleeping well; difficulty concentrating or remembering things; and thinking about hurting or killing yourself. If you notice any of these symptoms, please contact your doctor or a mental health professional to begin treatment.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of hurting themselves, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. This national network of local crisis centers provides free, private emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What You Can Do
Open Line of Communication
Keeping an open line of communication with your health care team is important in ensuring you receive the right kind of care. Talk to your care team about your mood and they can help you to determine the source of your feelings or point you to an appropriate mental health professional.
Practice Self Care
Although it can be hard to take care of yourself when dealing with anxiety or depression, staying physically active can be helpful for both your mind and can improve your COPD symptoms.
Eating well, doing things you enjoy, and spending time with family and friends are also helpful in boosting your mood. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your support system for help.
Know that You Are Not Alone
Your care team, friends, family, and community are great resources to lean on when going through mental health challenges. It may be helpful to ask your doctor to refer you to a COPD support group in your area to connect with people going through similar struggles. You can also call the Lung HelpLine through the American Lung Association to get free expert information and referral to resources from a nurse or respiratory therapist.
PEP Buddy: Better Breathing, Backed by Science
PEP Buddy is a simple, portable, clinically proven medical device that reduces breathlessness so you can increase your activity level. PEP Buddy can also help to prevent significant declines in blood oxygen levels during activity.
This blog is for educational purposes only; talk to your provider to understand recommendations specific to you.