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When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s normal to have anxiety too. One common COPD symptom is breathlessness, which can be terrifying to experience. Here, we discuss the complex relationship between COPD and anxiety. 

What Is the Relationship Between COPD and Anxiety?

People who are suffering from COPD and anxiety get trapped in a “dyspnea-anxiety-dyspnea” cycle. Experiencing shortness of breath (dyspnea) triggers panic and anxiety. Anxiety causes rapid breathing, which in turn increases the feeling of breathlessness. Because of this, people begin to associate episodes of dyspnea with feelings of anxiety. 

Anxiety can intensify COPD flare-ups and result in increased hospitalizations. Concern about triggering a flare-up can also decrease your ability to self-manage your disease at home. You may feel like you need to restrict your daily activities and exercise to prevent breathlessness. But physical activity strengthens your lungs and respiratory function, which allows you to do more without becoming short of breath.

If anxiety is limiting your day-to-day functions, seek treatment. One method that’s proven effective at helping people manage their anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

How Can CBT Help Treat Anxiety?

CBT is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy). It focuses on analyzing a person’s current thought patterns and understanding how those thought patterns impact actions. The goal of CBT is to recognize self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors and learn more positive, beneficial ways to think and act during stressful situations. 

CBT is a short-term form of therapy; there are 10-20 sessions in total. Following therapy, patients move forward and use the coping skills they’ve learned to handle challenges in new, constructive ways. Changing your thought patterns can help you lessen feelings of anxiety during stressful situations. Learning to self-manage anxiety also reduces hospitalizations, because it stops anxiety from exacerbating COPD flare-ups to the point of needing medical care. 

What Are Other Solutions to Help Manage Anxiety?

There are other actions you can take when you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed by your chronic condition:

  • Practice relaxation. Engage in pursed-lip breathing to slow down your breath and send a signal to your brain that everything is OK.
  • Join a support group. Use social media and the internet to search for a local group within your community.
  • Ask for help. Reach out to a relative, friend, doctor, counselor or spiritual leader. Your loved ones can offer you a listening ear, a sense of connection to others and even encouragement to seek professional help for anxiety. 
  • Stay active. Your anxiety may cause you to feel worried about breathlessness during day-to-day activities. But participating in social outings and activities strengthens your lungs, distracts you from feelings of anxiety, decreases feelings of isolation and boosts your mood. 

Finding a treatment to help slow the progression of your chronic lung condition can go a long way toward reducing anxiety over your future with COPD. At Lung Health Institute, we offer cellular therapy treatments that use your body’s natural healing cells to reduce inflammation in the lungs and increase lung function. If you are interested in learning more about cellular therapy, contact one of our patient coordinators today.

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