Coping With Feelings of Anger
A COPD diagnosis can be scary, and affects different people in different ways. Anger is a very common response. But is anger confined just to the patient, or does it spread wider and encompass family members and caregivers?
Plenty of Reasons to Get Angry
COPD and anger often go hand in hand. From the moment we’re diagnosed with COPD we have to make adjustments to how we live. As the disease progresses, so do the limitations. Before long, we’re faced with the realization that we can no longer do many things we once took for granted – we now rely on others. Have you had a grandchild ask why you can’t kick a ball with them or go for a walk to the park? COPD patients miss out on many things healthy people don't think twice about, which can be a major source of frustration and anger.
Another cause of anger is a lack of understanding about COPD from people in our lives, including family or friends who just don't get what we’re going through. Many patients diagnosed in the early stages of COPD can seem quite well when they're in an everyday environment, particularly if their job doesn't involve physical exertion. At this stage, friends or colleagues can start to question if there's a problem – we "don't look sick,” so it can't be too bad.
Anger is an understandable response to realizing people think you’re fine and not working hard for every breath. Most people who meet me for the first time have no idea I have severe COPD, as my fitness level is such that I don't seem breathless, but people who know me well and spend the most time with me have seen me at my worst.
Many people turn to the internet to look for answers and miracle cures after being diagnosed, but this can cause anger and upset, too. I promote the use of online resources, which are usually a great way to gain knowledge and build support networks. However, in the early days of being diagnosed when you don’t know what to look for, you can also find plenty of COPD doom and gloom.
I’ve also seen patients become angry at information telling them how to live their lives, written by someone with no idea of the day-to-day challenges of COPD. That’s why some of the most valuable advice on COPD you can get is from people who have experienced it.
Some patients have the added stress of financial constraints and can’t afford to see a specialist or medication cost is out of their reach. Luckily for me, Australia has a great health system, but health systems vary between countries and, for many, there is no safety net.
So, with COPD putting limits on what we do, a lack of understanding from friends and family, reading all the bad things about how the disease progresses, plus the pressure of financial constraints, is it any wonder patients can become angry?