COPD can cause anxiety, depression, and stress, which can affect the overall well-being of a person. (Image: Shutterstock)

COPD can cause anxiety, depression, and stress, which can affect the overall well-being of a person. (Image: Shutterstock)

The complex relationship between COPD and mental health requires a comprehensive approach to patient care.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow, making breathing difficult. It is identified by constant respiratory symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness, and chronic cough. COPD is caused by various factors, with the most common being long-term exposure to irritants in the air, such as cigarette smoke, dust, and fumes.

COPD gradually worsens over time and there is no direct cure for it. However, treatments can help in slowing down its progression, managing symptoms, and improving the quality of life. Along with obstructed airflow, COPD has a significant impact on mental health. It can cause anxiety, depression, and stress, which can affect the overall well-being of a person.

Dr Saras Prasad, Consultant – Psychiatry, Yatharth Super Speciality Hospital, Noida Extension, says, “Individuals living with COPD face a significantly higher risk of developing mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that the prevalence of depression in COPD patients is two to three times higher than that of the general population, while anxiety disorders are similarly elevated.”

He further added, “The physical limitations imposed by COPD can take a heavy toll on mental well-being. The constant struggle for breath, fear of exacerbations, and reduced ability to engage in once-enjoyed activities can fuel feelings of helplessness, isolation, and hopelessness, contributing to the development of depression and anxiety.”

On the other hand, Dr. Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head – Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, noted, “Mind and body are interlinked through hormones, chemicals and the immune system. Mental health covers healthy lifestyle choices as well. Smoking (addictive behaviour) can contribute significantly to COPD. Cigarettes contain over 4800 chemicals. Under significant distress, due to the release of stress hormones and chemicals that contribute to rapid breathing that can be a trigger for COPD.”

“Anxiety and depression are both more common in people suffering from COPD than in the general population. People with COPD may have concerns w.r.t overall cognitive impairment or impairment in specific cognitive domains affecting information processing, attention, concentration, memory, executive functioning, and self-control,” he added.

The experts shared various strategies that can be employed to address the mental health needs of COPD patients. These include:

  1. Screening and assessment:Regularly screening COPD patients for depression and anxiety is crucial for early detection and intervention.
  2. Psychotherapy:Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be particularly effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety in COPD patients.
  3. Medication:Antidepressants and anxiolytics can be prescribed to manage symptoms for individuals who do not respond adequately to therapy alone.
  4. Support groups:Participating in support groups can provide individuals with a sense of community, understanding, and shared experiences, fostering resilience and coping mechanisms.

According to doctors, we can improve the quality of life of individuals with COPD by acknowledging the two-way relationship between physical health and mental health, and by implementing effective strategies for managing mental health. This will help them better cope with the challenges of their condition and achieve a higher level of well-being.

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