COPD and Depression: What You Need to Know

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Being diagnosed with COPD—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—puts people at an increased risk for depression.

The increased risk may result from the limitations COPD puts on some people’s activity, and the sense of disconnection not participating in events may cause. The stress of managing COPD day after day is another factor.

About 40% of people with COPD have depression and it frequently goes untreated. Research shows the quality of life for COPD patients with depression is more closely linked to the depression than to COPD severity. Know the symptoms of depression so that you do not struggle with them unnecessarily.

Signs of Depression

  • Trouble sleeping, change in appetite, and fatigue
  • Sadness and guilt
  • Feeling hopeless and/or empty
  • Feeling helpless and/or worthless
  • Poor concentration
  • Thinking about suicide or death

To maintain the best quality of life, it is important to address these symptoms right way. Give your doctor a call.

Depressive and COPD Symptoms That Overlap

Having either disorder can disrupt your appetite or enjoyment of food. Each may cause problems sleeping and keep you from activities that you enjoyed. COPD and depression can weaken social confidence resulting from the difficulty of managing symptoms in public.

Because there is no cure for COPD, it changes people’s lives permanently in ways they would never choose. This may trigger feelings of hopelessness and grief.

Four Ways to Keep the Depression Risk Low

  1. Most people with COPD participate in some type of exercise or a cardiac rehabilitation program. Not only does regular exercise help your heart, it will lift your mood. Plus, you will enjoy a sense of accomplishment after you complete the exercise.
  2. You may not be able to do some of the things you would like to, but be sure to continue with or find activities you can do, and that bring you pleasure. If you do not have access to the Internet consider purchasing a computer or tablet. The Internet can be a source of fun, learning, and connection with others.
  3. Keep your physician updated about how you are feeling, physically and emotionally. He or she may refer you to a mental health professional should you need treatment for depression. There are some antidepressant medications that can be prescribed, and cognitive-behavioral therapy is an often recommended, effective treatment.
  4. It is always helpful to be with people that go through the same struggles as yourself. Family and friends will empathize as best they can, but only others with COPD (with or without depression) will deeply understand your experience.

Stage, Kurt B., Meddelboe, Thomas, Stage, Tore, Sorensen, Claus H. Depression in COPD-management and quality of life considerations. The Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 2006 September; 1(3): 315-320.

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