Managing Anxiety with COPD
Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are common symptoms for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). When someone is regularly having trouble breathing, it’s easy to understand why COPD and anxiety often go hand in hand.
COPD with anxiety creates a vicious cycle of breathlessness. Breathlessness can bring on feelings of panic – and that anxiousness can, in turn, make it even harder to breathe. Recognizing, understanding, and managing anxiety is essential for people living with COPD to help break this cycle.
Addressing Anxiety with COPD
A diagnosis of a serious, irreversible chronic illness like COPD can trigger a range of emotions including anxiety as the patient contemplates what this diagnosis will mean to their daily lives. The physical symptoms of COPD like shortness of breath can also trigger the brain to respond with panic. Patients can manage some of this anxiety by using mindfulness practices and breathing exercises.
When an individual with COPD begins to feel anxious, they should bring their attention to their natural breath. Keeping their mouth closed, they should inhale for a count of two, then exhale by pursing their lips like they were blowing out a candle for a count of four.
Individuals can expand this breathing exercise by taking a deep breath for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of five, then exhaling for a count of seven.
While these techniques can be very good at calming an anxious mind, performing these mindfulness breathing exercises several times a day can help prevent anxiety from taking hold.
Support Groups for COPD
Another way to manage anxiety and COPD is to find support from people who are going through the same experience. The American Lung Association Better Breathers Club connects people living with lung disease through online webinars and in-person support groups across the country.
In addition to members sharing their own experiences, the Better Breathers Clubs will talk through problems individuals are facing and bring in well-trained guest speakers and facilitators to help participants have the best possible quality of life.
Palliative and Hospice Care for COPD
While COPD can be managed, there is no cure and it will worsen over time. It can be difficult for family caregivers to know when their loved one is eligible for additional care.
A palliative care consultation is a good place to start when your loved one’s condition is declining. A palliative nurse practitioner and social worker will work with your loved one’s current physicians to coordinate care.
The nurse practitioner and social worker will visit your loved one wherever they are living. This cuts down on trips to the doctor and hospital which can be an incredible relief for those who struggle to walk long distances or who have mobility issues.
When the patient’s condition reaches the point where their physician expects they have less than six months to live, the patient is eligible to receive the added support of hospice care. Some of the symptoms they may experience include:
- Dyspnea or tightness in the chest
- Changes in appetite and a decline in weight
- The need for oxygen or inhalers
- Difficulty speaking without becoming short of breath
Once admitted to hospice care, a team of experienced hospice professionals will begin visiting the patient to provide nursing care, personal care, plus emotional and spiritual support.
To learn more about COPD end-of-life signs and the support Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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