When diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), many people assume that the worst part is dealing with the physical limitations.But those who have lived with COPD know that the disease has a significant impact on mental health, too.
COPD is a serious lung condition that makes it difficult to breathe. It can be especially stressful for those who deal with depression or anxiety, which are common among those who have lung diseases like COPD. In this resource, we’ll take a look at how COPD and its stressors can affect your mental health.
What is COPD?
COPD is a lung disease that causes reduced airflow to and from the lungs. This can make it hard to breathe, particularly when active. The “COPD” acronym stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the “chronic” part refers to the fact that the disease is long-lasting. It can make you feel out of breath even when you’re not doing anything active — even while sitting still.
COPD is a common lung disease that includes emphysema (a disease that damages the lung’s spongy areas) and chronic bronchitis (a condition where the bronchi become inflamed and produce excess mucus).
As COPD is a chronic disease, regular therapy such as Pulmonary Rehabilitation can be extremely helpful to manage most symptoms. Likewise, simple steps can be taken at home, such as practising breathing exercises for copd, taking care of your diet and ensuring you are not exposed to further airborne triggers
Causes of COPD and its effects on mental health
As anyone with COPD knows, it is a physically and emotionally draining condition. A person’s quality of life is known to be lower when they have COPD compared to other chronic diseases, and higher levels of stress are associated with COPD.
There are a few things that can prompt COPD symptoms, like sudden weather changes, being around cigarette smoke, or infections like the flu (which can exacerbate existing breathing issues). You may notice that you have a dry cough or trouble breathing.
There are several reasons why COPD can be so stressful. It is a “hidden” condition that is not easily visible to others, which can make the person feel alone in their struggle. COPD can cause its sufferers to feel out of breath and fatigued, which can lead to irritability and mood swings. COPD can also cause a person to feel out of control of their life, which can lead to frustration and hopelessness.
There are a number of mental health issues that accompany COPD, and the stressors involved in dealing with the disease can also, in turn, exacerbate mental health issues. These include: Depression Anxiety Stress, including chronic stress and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Other mental health problems, like panic attacks and eating disorders, are also possible.
Depression in COPD
Depression is a common mental illness that can be traced back to biochemical and genetic factors, as well as environmental factors like stress and trauma. In general, people with chronic health conditions have an increased risk of experiencing depression.
COPD is no exception, and studies have suggested that people with COPD are 28% more likely to experience depression than people without COPD. For many with COPD, the chronic stress and feelings of hopelessness and loss of control can lead to feelings of depression.
Coping strategies for people with COPD and depression include creating a support system and staying physically active (which we’ll discuss more in a bit). When depression is chronic and treatment-resistant, antidepressants are a common option.
Anxiety in COPD
Anxiety is a mental health condition that is characterised by feelings of panic, worry, or unease. It is often a “normal” response to stressful situations, but when it is prolonged or present in everyday life, it can become a mental health disorder.
People with COPD are 2.5 times as likely to experience anxiety than people without COPD, and these feelings of anxiety are often a result of the stress that comes with living with a chronic condition. Like depression, chronic stress and feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness will often lead to anxiety.
People who have a history of anxiety and COPD are at a higher risk of having an anxiety-provoking episode. Coping strategies for those with COPD and anxiety are similar to those for those with depression: connecting with friends and family, setting up a support system, and getting enough sleep and exercise.
Strategies to cope with the mental strain of COPD
Coping with COPD is not a one-time thing, but rather a long-term process that requires emotional and mental strength.
COPD can have a significant mental health impact on many who are living with it. If you are experiencing significant feelings of depression or anxiety as a result of COPD, it is important to get help. There are many ways to cope with the mental strain of COPD. Here are a few recommendations:
Talk to a therapist: Talking to a therapist is one of the best ways to process your emotions and mental health. A therapist can help you understand the source of your feelings and offer coping strategies, such-as coping strategies, relaxation techniques, and ways to manage your stress.
Join a Pulmonary Rehab Program: Most pulmonary rehab programs not only help you by improving your lung function but also help improve your overall mental and spiritual well being. Alternatively interacting with people with similar condition as yours help alleviate your feelings of isolation.
Join a support group: Joining a support group allows people to share their personal experiences and feelings, coping strategies, and firsthand information about the disease and it’s management.
Stay physically active: Physical activity is a great way to reduce your stress and improve your mental health. It can also help you sleep better, which is important for managing mood and anxiety disorders.
Practise self-care: Self-care is not selfish. It is an important way to take care of your physical and mental health. Self-care can look different for everyone, but there are a few common themes. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and reducing your stress are all part of taking care of yourself.
COPD is an invisible disease, but it’s not something that you need to suffer in silence. It’s important to remember that there are resources out there to help you cope with the mental strain of COPD. If you’re experiencing mental health issues, there are treatments available that can help.
If you think you may be experiencing mental health issues as a result of COPD, remember that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural for the strain of living with this disease to take a mental toll.