Chronic illnesses can be difficult to manage, and for those with COPD, the condition’s prevalence of over 16 million Americans makes it even more challenging. The worsening lung blockages that come with COPD can cause breathing to become increasingly shallow, which may trigger anxiety in the brain. Dr. Victor Kim, a pulmonologist at Temple Health, explains that this vicious cycle of breathlessness and anxiety can make symptoms worse and affect treatment outcomes.
Individuals with COPD have over 1.5 times the rate of anxiety and depression as those without the condition, which highlights the importance of addressing emotional health alongside physical health. However, emotions are often overlooked between patients and doctors when discussing treatment options. Studies on congestive heart failure have shown that treating both the heart and mental health can have significant benefits for overall well-being.
Dr. Kim emphasizes the need for COPD patients to acknowledge their anxiety and speak with their doctors about it openly. He suggests using coping strategies, educational resources, and different maneuvers to improve breathing during episodes of shortness of breath. Joining a support group can also provide a sense of community for COPD patients who may feel isolated due to their condition.
Overall, it is crucial for COPD patients to recognize that their anxiety is not just in their heads but rather a symptom of their illness that needs attention from healthcare professionals. By acknowledging their anxiety and seeking support from others, COPD patients can better manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.