People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a greater risk for depression, stress, and anxiety. Being stressed or depressed can make COPD symptoms worse and make it harder to care for yourself.
When you have COPD, caring for your emotional health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Learning how to deal with stress and anxiety and seeking care for depression can help you manage COPD and feel better in general.
Having COPD can affect your mood and emotions for several reasons:
All of these factors can make you feel stressed, anxious, or depressed.
Having COPD can change how you feel about yourself. And how you feel about yourself can affect COPD symptoms and how well you care for yourself.
People with COPD who are depressed may have more COPD flare-ups and may have to go to the hospital more often. Depression saps your energy and motivation. When you are depressed, you may be less likely to:
Stress is a known COPD trigger. When you feel stressed and anxious, you may breathe faster, which can make you feel short of breath. When it feels harder to breathe, you feel more anxious, and the cycle continues, leading you to feel even worse.
There are things you can and should do to protect your emotional health. While you can't get rid of all the stress in your life, you can learn how to manage it. These suggestions may help you relieve stress and stay positive.
Feeling angry, upset, sad, or anxious at times is understandable. Having COPD changes your life, and it can be hard to accept a new way of living. However, depression is more than occasional sadness or frustration. Symptoms of depression include:
If you have symptoms of depression that last for 2 weeks or more, call your doctor. You don't have to live with these feelings. Treatment can help you feel better.
Call 911, a suicide hot line, or go to the nearest emergency room if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others.
Call your doctor if:
You should also call your doctor if your COPD symptoms get worse, despite following your treatment plan.
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Vancouver (WA): Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD); 2013.
Strollo HC, Bon JM, Tedrow JR, Karoleski CM, et al. Systemic Inflammation Associated With Depression In COPD Independent Of Airflow Obstruction Severity. In: D93. Impact of comorbid conditions in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. American Thoracic Society. 2013. A5702-A5702.
Lu Y, Feng L, Feng L, Nyunt MS, Yap KB, et al. Systemic inflammation, depression and obstructive pulmonary function: a population-based study. Respiratory Research. 2013;14:53.
Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Weinberger SE, Hanania NA, Criner G, van der Molen T, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Clinical Practice Guideline Update from the American College of Physicians, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, and European Respiratory Society. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(3):179-191.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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