Anxiety is a common issue for people dealing with chronic ailments, and it is especially prevalent in those with COPD. With 16 million Americans suffering from COPD, the difficulty in breathing due to lung blockages worsening over time can lead to a feeling of stress and anxiety. Temple Health pulmonologist Dr. Victor Kim notes that this can create a vicious cycle, as the constant breathlessness can provoke anxiety, which in turn can make symptoms worse. COPD patients have a rate of anxiety and depression that is more than 1.5 times higher than those without the condition.
Dr. Kim emphasizes that patients and doctors often fail to discuss emotions, unaware that there is a physical connection between the mind and the body. However, studies on congestive heart failure have shown that treating the heart can improve the mind, and vice versa. This underscores the importance of addressing the mental health of COPD patients.
It is important for COPD patients to understand that anxiety is not just in their heads, and they should talk to their doctors about it because there are ways to deal with it. Dr. Kim suggests coping strategies, education, and different maneuvers that patients with COPD can use to improve their breathing when they experience shortness of breath. He also recommends joining a support group for COPD patients, as this can help them realize that they are not alone and provide a platform for learning and sharing strategies for managing their disease.