The Link Between COPD and Depression

How COPD and Depression Interact

COPD and Depression Anxiety and depression are common in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With severe COPD activity is very limited, eating and breathing can be difficult, and fatigue is very common. You cannot get around without becoming short of breath, and this can cause frustration. Going out in public causes anxiety for because you feel an exacerbation could occur while you are away from home, and this is unsettling for you.

Depression Triggers

When depression comes into your life, you have many associated feelings like frustration, confusion and anger. You’ll likely ask yourself many questions: how did this start? What was the cause? Is it my fault? What can I do? In some situations, these questions waste valuable time and energy.

When there is stress or series of stressors, like the stress associated with COPD, it also becomes challenging to view the world in positive ways. Your thinking may begin to change as you become more defensive and skeptical about people, your surroundings, and even your bodies. It can be an extremely depressing thought to believe that your body is letting you down.

Negative thinking becomes a pattern, and patterns become bad habits. Bad habits spread into other aspects of your life through a process called generalization. In generalization, instead of confining your bad luck, negativity or depression to your COPD, it spreads, and the lens you see the entire world through becomes darker and more hopeless. Over time, depression is hard to escape.


COPD affects your body by making it difficult to sleep, eat, feel energetic and experience motivation. Depression affects your body by making it difficult to sleep, eat, feel energetic and experience motivation. Do these sound similar? COPD can trick your body into feeling depressed by creating this symptom overlap.

The American Respiratory Society, along with the European Respiratory Society, have recommended better management of the social and psychological problems COPD patients experience. Screening for depression and anxiety should be a part of your pulmonary rehabilitation program and should be treated appropriately.

Other than medications to help with any psychiatric issues, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful as well.

Thought-Based Interventions

Thought-based triggers of depression respond well to thought-based interventions. Want to change your mind? Here’s how:

Track Your Thinking

To change your thinking you need to track your thinking. Pay attention to the self-talk in your mind: what types of things are you saying? Are you obsessing on the notion that the world is conspiring against you? Do you see COPD as a minor barrier that will take some adjustment?

Negative thinking leads to negative feelings. The good news is that the opposite is also true; write down the thoughts that seem to be fueling feelings of depression.

Challenge Your Thinking

After you have compiled a list of negative thoughts, begin the process of defining your opinion on them. Are they accurate? Are the rational? You already know that they make you feel worse, which is a good reason to justify a changed way of thinking. During this method, forget about concepts of “right and wrong” and “truth or lies.” If your goal is to feel happier, your focus needs to be on thinking the thoughts that diminish depression.

Next page: how to fight depression with physical-based interventions. 

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Yvonne BanksYvonne Banks

Yvonne is a licensed practical nurse who has a passion for helping people to improve their health conditions. Practicing since 2001, she has worked with both geriatric and pediatric patients during the course of her career.

Jan 22, 2015
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