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Thursday, November 19, 2009

COPD associated with anxiety, depression

Anyone who works as an RT will definitely see a ton of patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). It's a disease that slowly progresses with time and can cause not just breathing discomfort but also forces one to make some drastic lifestyle changes.

Being short of breath, or the fear of it, can cause anxiety. Not wanting to quit living your life and knowing you must, and knowing you have a disease that might some day take your life, can be depressing. explains this all too common situation best:

In most cases, COPD completely changes a person's life and it is hard to adjust to a new way of being in the world. You may have been active for all of your life and now you can't do the things you once enjoyed. You most likely feel slowed down, have lost much of the spontaneity you used to have.

Dragging oxygen around, sleep problems, and fatigue make it difficult to just pick up and go. You may be self-conscious about your oxygen or a chronic cough and become reluctant to go out in public. Many people miss doing the things that made their life fun like traveling, dancing, gardening, walking, spending time with family and grandchildren. Consequently, they can feel like a burden on their family.

These are important losses that must be grieved just like losing a loved one. It is normal to feel angry, afraid, sad, depressed, guilty, stressed and frustrated with all of the changes. It is critical to allow yourself to feel all of these things even when it is uncomfortable. Using the support of others will also help you feel less alone in dealing with these changes. Adjusting to an illness is a process and will not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and learn more about coping with your emotions.

National Jewish explains there is a region in our brains that detects that there is enough oxygen in our blood. When there is not enough oxygen, or there is something wrong with the air around you, this region sends out an alarm that causes you to feel anxious.

So your anxiety is perfectly normal. National Jewish explains COPD anxiety this way:

With COPD, you regularly have trouble breathing and your suffocation alarm can become "hyperactive." You might feel anxious and edgy. Even little changes, like strong odors or being hurried, can fire off a full suffocation alarm signal. This is the reason that patients with COPD frequently complain of increased episodes of panic and anxiety. This response is common and does not mean that there is something wrong with you mentally or emotionally.

Thankfully there are medicines and even counseling that can be used to treat anxiety.

Depression is the other bugger. I'm sure we've all been depressed at some point in our lives, and it's no fun. COPD makes it hard to sleep for some patients, and that can even add to the dilemma. It can have you feeling disconnected, hopeless and lost.

According to National Jewish depression is something that must be treated:

Depression is a miserable experience that leaves us feeling disconnected from our lives and often without hope that anything will ever feel better again. When depression is left untreated, it drains both your brain and your body. You not only feel bad, but you also have less energy to do the things you want to do, including taking care of yourself and managing your COPD. It can also make you feel hopeless - as if things will never get any better - and then you might not want to bother following your treatment plan.
Thankfully both anxiety and depression are treatable, yet first help must be sought. Usually, however, a proactive approach by the medical care team is the best way to treat COPD related anxiety and depression. I'll discuss this on Nov. 26.

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