Individuals with chronic illnesses, particularly those with COPD, often experience anxiety as a common issue. This condition affects 16 million Americans and causes breathing to become increasingly difficult as lung blockages worsen over time. When the brain perceives shallow breathing as a stressful situation, it can create a vicious cycle of breathlessness and anxiety, making symptoms worse.
Studies have shown that individuals with COPD have over 1.5 times the rate of anxiety and depression compared to those without the condition. This can significantly impact their treatment and outcomes. However, emotions are rarely discussed between patients and doctors, and the physical connection between emotional and physical health is often overlooked.
Despite this, Dr. Victor Kim, a pulmonologist at Temple Health, emphasizes the importance of COPD patients acknowledging their anxiety and speaking with their doctors about it. He suggests coping strategies, education, different maneuvers to improve breathing during episodes of shortness of breath, and joining a support group to provide a sense of community and a platform for learning and sharing strategies for managing their disease.
It’s crucial for COPD patients to recognize that their anxiety is not just in their head and to seek support from healthcare professionals to address it effectively. By taking control of their emotional wellbeing, COPD patients can improve their overall quality of life and better manage their disease.