Chronic illnesses such as COPD can have a significant impact on an individual’s emotional well-being. This is especially true for individuals with COPD, who experience difficulty breathing due to lung blockages. Dr. Victor Kim, a pulmonologist at Temple Health, explains that when breathing becomes increasingly shallow, the brain may perceive a stressful situation even if one does not exist. This can create a vicious cycle of breathlessness and anxiety, making symptoms worse.
Individuals with COPD have over 1.5 times the rate of anxiety and depression as those without the condition. Emotions are rarely discussed between patients and doctors, and the physical connection between emotional and physical health is often overlooked. However, studies on congestive heart failure have shown that treating the heart can improve mental health, and vice versa.
It’s important for COPD patients to recognize that their anxiety is not a figment of their imagination and to seek support from healthcare professionals to address it. Dr. Kim recommends coping strategies, education, different maneuvers to improve breathing during episodes of shortness of breath and joining support groups as ways to help manage their disease emotionally. By acknowledging their anxiety and seeking support, COPD patients can improve their overall quality of life and better manage their condition.