Coping with the Overwhelming Emotional Effects of COPD

You may experience depression, anxiety, fear and remorse

The emotional effects of COPD can sometimes be unbearable, particularly if you don't have a good support system. You may experience a wide range of intense feelings, from depression over your illness to fear for the future and remorse for past decisions.

You may need to seek professional assistance for these emotional issues, especially if your feelings are overwhelming. To do this, it will help if you learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of emotional overload.

This list of symptoms will show you what to look for if you feel that your emotions are getting the best of you:


lost and alone
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Depression is a real illness caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. It's different from ordinary sadness.

People with COPD should be especially careful with symptoms of depression — if you have COPD plus depression and/or anxiety, you're at a higher risk for COPD exacerbation.

Remember, you don't have to suffer alone. If you have any of these symptoms, seek help as soon as possible:


Stressed woman rubbing her forehead at laptop
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Anxiety is incredibly common in people with COPD, and like depression, can increase your risk for COPD exacerbation.

For some people, real physical symptoms — such as an increased heart rate and sweating — accompany an anxiety disorder. However, you may also suffer from some not-so-typical symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms may include:

  • Muscle tension, often found in the neck, shoulders, back and jaw muscles
  • Problems with digestion, including constipation or diarrhea
  • Changes in sleep patterns, which can mean an inability to sleep, difficulty falling asleep or early awakenings
  • Panic attacks, which are different from generalized anxiety and include a suddenly racing heart, numbness and unusual physical sensations

Any of these symptoms should alert you to see your health care provider.


Something doesn't feel right...
PeopleImages/Getty Images

We all have them — certain fears that can cause us unusual dread and worry. Fear is our most basic and primitive of human emotions. But while having a fear or two is normal, when your fears start to interfere with daily life, it is time to take some action.

Irrational fears are know as phobias. Symptoms of phobias include intense anxiety, preoccupation of thoughts and an overwhelming sense of doom or terror.

If you feel that fear is taking over your life, a mental health professional may help you see things more clearly. You can also try joining a COPD support group. Talking to others can help distill some of your fears and make life much more enjoyable.


Moments of melancholy

Remorse is defined as a sense of regrent for past mistakes. Many people with COPD share that they feel intense remorse for their disease. Because COPD most often is caused by smoking, other people can make insensitive remarks, and these only serve to make the feelings of remorse worse.

If you feel overwhelmed with remorse, try to forgive yourself. In forgiveness, there lies peace and comfort. We all make mistakes, even the best of us. Living life with regret is a waste of energy that you could be putting into something more constructive, like developing healthy habits and taking better care of yourself. There is life after COPD, and it is time that you started to live it.

Learn how to deal with insensitive comments others may make about your COPD.


Jennings JH, Digiovine B, Obeid D, Frank C. The Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Acute Exacerbations of COPD. Lung. 2009 Feb 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Continue Reading