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COPD - managing stress and your mood

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - emotions; Stress - COPD; Depression - COPD

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.

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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.

COPD and Your Emotions

Having COPD can affect your mood and emotions for several reasons:

All of these factors can make you feel stressed, anxious, or depressed.

How Your Emotions can Affect COPD

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 is harder to breathe, you feel more anxious, and the cycle continues, leading you to feel even worse.

How to Manage Stress and Avoid Depression

There are things you can and should do to protect your emotional health. While you cannot 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 do not have to live with these feelings. Treatment can help you feel better.

When to Call Your Doctor

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.

References

Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) website. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: 2019 report. goldcopd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/GOLD-2019-v1.7-FINAL-14Nov2018-WMS.pdf. Accessed October 22, 2019.

Han M, Lazarus SC. COPD: Clinical diagnosis and management. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 44.

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Review Date: 10/1/2019  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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