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Anxiety, Depression and COPD: How to Cope

Posted by Erin Lowry on Jun 6, 2018 12:00:00 PM



Anxiety, Depression & COPD How to cope

Anxiety and depression are a common occurrence for COPD patients. Those who have COPD sometimes suffer from the effects of anxiety and depression.

Not only do a lot of patients feel anxiety when they struggle to breathe, but they feel depressed on the “hostage” feeling they have.

Many of those patients feel the stress of COPD as well as anxiety and depression. It not only impact the individual, but their friends, family, doctors and surrounding environment.

The most important part for patients who suffer from COPD, anxiety and depression is to find a healthy outlet to help with the battle.

No matter if it is therapy, support groups, or medication it is vital to get the help they need.

What We Know...

A study has brought attention to the issue of a high amount of COPD patients dealing with depression too.

In one study as many as a quarter of the participants had unrecognized sub-clinical depression, and two thirds of the participants were reported to have moderate-to-severe depression.

The same study also draws attention to the lack of treatment for COPD patients who are dealing with anxiety and depression as well.


sad elderly woman dealing with depression


Depression not only lowers the quality of life for those who have COPD but can also decrease any adherence to a treatment plan.

The study also addresses that “by compromising health status, mood disorders may lead to increased risk of hospitalization and re-hospitalization”.

Depression, anxiety and COPD can be one of the worst combinations as it can affect the outcome of treatment for the COPD.

The most important part of dealing with COPD, anxiety and depression are the treatment methods.

Don't Be Ashamed

Even though there is a social disconcert of having a mental illness, it needs to be addressed and accepted by at least the individual suffering with it.

This recognition can help the overall outcome of the illnesses. Early treatment and education can help a patient with COPD live the full life they planned.

It is so important to get treatment or help for the illness because as stated above as it can in turn affect your health condition overall.

The best way to overcome the illnesses is to keep in touch with your doctor, and inform them of your thoughts and feelings.

Doctors cannot help treat a illness they do not know about.

According to the study, “Frequent panic attacks in COPD patients who are receiving medications as prescribed are most often related to a concurrent depressive syndrome”.

The Institute of Medicine “Chasm Report” has show that many Americans that have COPD, asthma, diabetes, or major depression “are not receiving recommended care.”

Another important study revealed that a factor of COPD, anxiety and depression is the link from chronic inflammation medications.

Increased inflammatory markers were documented in late-life depression and COPD.

These markers showed that interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein helped show part of the link between depression symptoms and pulmonary obstruction.

This link could lead to future testing that could in turn, help find a better solution to treating all three illnesses.


pills for anxiety and depression on copd


What You Can Do to Fight Your Anxiety & Depression?

Whatever your doctor feels is the best treatment for your anxiety, depression and COPD is most likely what should be followed.

If you feel that the treatment plan may not work for you, talk with your doctor and explain your thoughts to them.

Following doctor treatment regimen (staying active and taking medication), counseling, exercise and yoga, relaxation and antidepressant drug therapies, social support and caregiver care are all healthy outlets for your anxiety or depression.

All of the above treatments can help combat anxiety, depression while dealing with COPD.

The use of PID-C (9-session intervention) has shown to increase the remission rate as well as decrease the depression symptoms.

The interventions were developed for those with depression and severe COPD. This allows targeted interventions, which helps patients work on their exercise and medication regimens.

Counseling is also a good option for those with anxiety and depression.

Speaking to a mental health specialist can help negative thoughts, and can also help form a plan of action.

Exercise has been proven to help boost your mood, as it releases endorphins. This can help the depression and anxiety. But it also helps with COPD, as exercise can help strengthen the lungs and surrounding muscles.

Yoga, which is also a good form of exercise, can not only help with your overall health but your ability to relax in stressful situations. Yoga is a very relaxing way of self-meditation if times of stress.

Relaxation can help with anxiety, as it can help you find an inner peace. Relaxation can show the patient some positive techniques to stay calm in the moment of panic or anxiety attacks.

Antidepressants can help with depression, combined with another form of treatment it can help a patient have a more successful outcome.

Social support is important no matter what. Having family and friends there to support you through a hard time is important to staying positive and having a positive outcome.

Lastly, having a caregiver provide care for you can help as well. Having someone there to take care of you can help from being lonely. This in turn can help with depression and anxiety, as well as your COPD.

Sometimes an easier form of therapy for both patients and physician teams is telephone health mentoring. This has shown effective in the trial that was run.

Their medical team provided usual care, while nurses called the patients 16 times in a 12 month time frame and each call was about 30 minutes long.


elderly couple speaking with doctor about lung xrays


This method helped improve anxiety by the end of 12 months, but there was no difference in depression in the patients.

What did show to improve depression in COPD patients is implementing self-management at a younger age, and living with others.

Using self-management tools can help you stay on top of how to handle your illnesses. Your doctor will have the best recommendations on how to implement self-management in your treatment plan.

As stated before, having another person around more often can lead to a positive mindset.

Having someone to confide in and to take care of you can help your mental health.

Being on Top of Your Treatment

A large issues in anxiety, depression and COPD patients is that one-third of COPD patients with have depression or anxiety symptoms get treatment.

Many do not even realize that they are suffering from anxiety or depression because of the similar symptoms in COPD.

Some of the issues in the way of successfully diagnosing depression and anxiety in COPD patients are patient barriers (not talking about symptoms with doctor, lack of knowledge about depression & anxiety), doctor barriers (lack of diagnostic approach, lack of appointment time), and system-level barriers (poor connection between primary and mental health care, lack of resources).

According to the European Respiratory Review  anxiety, depression and COPD all have overlapping symptoms. Sadly this makes it harder to diagnose if a COPD patient has anxiety and depression.

A good and healthy combatant for anxiety, depression and COPD is comprehensive pulmonary rehab. This works of exercise the patient can participate in, as well as educating the patient about all three illnesses.

An important part of managing anxiety and depression is finding the solution that works best for the patient.

It is vital for doctors and patients to be in communication to help find the right treatment for anxiety, depression and COPD.

It is also vital to make sure all treatments and medications work together and not against each other.

The lack of treatment for anxiety, depression and COPD can have detrimental end results. Not getting the help needed to fight the diseases can end in an early death.

Many of the above studies all state that all results need further studying, as mental health has just started to be spoken of and researched.

Their results are positive, but its also important to see the long term effects of anxiety, depression and COPD.

We always recommend speaking with your doctor about your thoughts and feelings, and your doctor will be able to help you make shape of your thoughts. From there you can work out an effective plan of fighting your anxiety and depression.

Speaking with your doctor can help find a good plan of treatment for you, when suffering from anxiety, depression and COPD.

Your doctor will be able to look into the best plan for you, as well as medications if they see fit.

If you do not feel confident speaking with your doctor, call a loved one and ask them to come with you to the doctor to support you.


young man and his mother


There are support groups everywhere for anxiety, depression and COPD. Head to Facebook and look up some groups. There are support group websites, blogs with helpful advice.

Or as always, your doctor is a great resource for many outlets for your health, mentally and physically.

There is no need to be embarrassed by anxiety and depression as roughly 40 million people (18 and older) are diagnosed each year.

You are not alone in your fight.


Call 1-800-273-8255 if you have thoughts of suicide.



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