Depression, and Anxiety: How Breathing Problems Affect Your Mental Health

A quick look at COPD symptoms explains why so many patients are depressed and anxious. The question is, what can you do to feel better? Shortness of breath: in order words, you are no longer able to take the most basic thing for granted, breathing. Wheezing, chest tightness. Chronic cough and a lot of mucus. Involuntary weight loss Not being able to sleep well. Being afraid of an outbreak that could send you to the hospital or even threaten your own life.

A simple look at that list of things that people with COPD have to worry about and live with should do a good job of explaining why more than half of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

Younger COPD patients are, according to one study, at a higher risk of depression and anxiety, perhaps because they didn’t really expect to live with a chronic illness at this stage in their life, and their COPD symptoms make it very difficult to live. their lives as they want.

While it is not difficult to understand why someone with COPD would become anxious, depressed, or (quite often) both, these mental health problems further reduce their quality of life and even increase their chances of experiencing acute exacerbations.

What should COPD patients know about anxiety?

A wide variety of individual disorders fall under the general umbrella of “anxiety disorder.” This includes generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. The exact symptoms will vary depending on the disorder in question, of course, but the physical signs of anxiety are more or less the same in all disorders: increased heart rate (tachycardia), profuse sweating, and (this is the one you could really do without as a COPD patient) shortness of breath.

Among COPD patients, anxiety is often caused primarily by fear of acute dyspnea; Few things are more terrifying than not being able to breathe, both from the physical sensation and the associated fear of dying. The knowledge that COPD is progressive, so your symptoms will get worse, is another common anxiety trigger. Also, some COPD medications can make you anxious.
It’s also possible that you were already anxious before you were diagnosed with COPD. Research suggests that many people start smoking, which is also known to be a leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to help them cope with anxiety.
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No matter how anxious you get, there are ways to help you manage an anxiety disorder:

  • Your doctor may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication such as diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax), but with caution. This is because these medications can make shortness of breath worse and also potentially interact with the medications you were prescribed to control your COPD.
  • Buspirone (BuSpar) is an anxiety medication that shouldn’t make shortness of breath worse and is also not habit-forming.
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  • Some antidepressants, such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), or citalopram (Celexa), may also be prescribed to help manage anxiety disorders.
  • Because shortness of breath induces anxiety and anxiety induces shortness of breath, pulmonary rehab can also help you with your anxiety. Pulmonary rehabilitation teaches breathing techniques, offers an exercise program, and educates patients on how to live well with COPD. Ultimately, it can reduce shortness of breath, which reduces anxiety.
  • Talk therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, can also play an important role in recovering from anxiety.

What should COPD patients know about depression?

Although different studies have reached different conclusions, it is clear that depression is much more common in COPD patients than in the general population. Some studies suggest that a quarter of COPD patients have low-level depression (which does not meet the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder), while others show that COPD patients diagnosed with clinical depression are at disproportionate risk that this depression be moderate or severe

You are depressed? While you will need a healthcare professional to determine this for sure, symptoms include:

  • Feeling desperate pessimistic, sad, empty or low, and sometimes agitated and angry.
  • Sleep changes: sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep well
  • Decreased appetite (depressed people may also have an increased appetite, but eating can be difficult for COPD patients in the later stages, so a decreased appetite is more likely)
  • Being unable to concentrate
  • Withdraw from your social circle
  • Loss of interest in daily activities or decreased ability to perform these activities.
  • In patients with COPD specifically: you feel that your health has deteriorated, it is more difficult for you to control flare-ups, and you do not take as much care of your health as you should and could.
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