Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~ It is pretty common for those of us who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to fall into fits of depression. The initial diagnosis can certainly be cause for upset, and the inevitable exacerbations, the lung infections and pneumonias can lead us down the dark path. An effort to perform some task that is defeated due to shortness of breath is likely to result in frustration, anger, and quite possibly depression. It is so easy to feel sorry for ourselves, to wallow around in self-pity, to go through the whole “why me?” scenario. We experience feelings of helplessness, of hopelessness.
Now, according to studies, it appears that COPD patients who are depressed may experience more exacerbations of COPD symptoms and increased hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room.
Three theories have surfaced:
- Depression may cause changes to the immune system that render the patient more susceptible to environmental hazards. If this is indeed the case, it seems that there is little we can do about it except guard against the depression. To do otherwise is to risk more symptoms, greater chance of illness, and of course, the resultant depression. And on and on.
- Those patients with COPD may be more sensitive to symptoms and may be more likely to report them. Depression tends to make us more sensitive to our ills. If we are sitting around in a blue funk, we are more apt to dwell on every little hurt, every symptom that can remotely be blamed on our illness. Remember when you were a little bitty thing? If you were in a good mood, you could withstand just about any form of self-inflicted punishment with no more than a renewed determination to go running off in a new random direction. On the other hand, if we were tired or upset, running into a pillow could set us off into a crying fit. Today, we experience much the same reactions.
- Depressed patients may not follow their medication and exercise regimens as carefully as they should. Depression leads to feelings of not really caring. Failure to comply with our necessary activities, missed meds, too much couch time and the like leads to increased advancement of the disease. That, of course, can result in the danger of depression, furthering the cycle.
Exercise is an excellent method of battling depression. If you are simply unable or unwilling to exercise, consider talking to your physician about some manner of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Of course, if you are willing to try exercise, you should always check with your doctor to make sure that it is advisable for you.
Attitude is so very vital in the effects, indeed the progression of COPD. A good outlook can make life so much easier, can help us to withstand the effects of wimpy lungs without falling into feelings of depression.
So, in summary, COPD can cause symptoms that can lead to depression, that apparently can make COPD symptoms worse, which can cause depression, and so on. They say that old age isn’t for sissies … I guess we can say the same thing about COPD.
~ Uncle Jim
Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.
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