The Life & Health Report - A Monthly Factual Overview

Volume 10, Issue 1

Coping Strategies for Living with COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a broad term that encompasses progressive lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

COPD can develop over years without any obvious symptoms. Often, it is not until the disease progresses that the symptoms appear. If you notice any of these symptoms, ask your doctor about taking a very quick and simple spirometry test that assesses your lung function by measuring your inhalations and exhalations.

A plethora of emotions can arise with a diagnosis of COPD. Fear, anxiety and depression are common. But by educating yourself, you can learn coping strategies and behavioral techniques to help you better control your breathing and manage other physical and emotional changes that may occur after your diagnosis.Below are a few basic coping strategies for living with COPD:

  • Tell your healthcare professional if you're feeling depressed or anxious. This can be difficult precisely because of the depression and anxiety. You may not know your healthcare provider very well. You may be embarrassed. You may even feel that talking about it won't help anything. But it will help. While it may take some time to find the most appropriate person or technique for you, not telling anyone will deprive your of the help and support you need. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
  • Empower yourself by learning all you can about COPD. If you understand the mechanisms of the disease, you can learn proper breathing techniques to help you control your breathing. Ask for information about pulmonary rehabilitation. According to the COPD Foundation, "Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of exercise, education, and support to help you learn to breath and function at the highest level possible."
  • Talk to other people with COPD. It doesn't matter if you meet them in a pulmonary rehabilitation program or a COPD support group. Reaching out to others helps you realize that you are not alone. It also allows you to share ideas and gain encouragement from others facing similar concerns. Besides getting the help you need, you may be able to help others.

To learn more, visit the COPD Foundation's website at copdfoundation.org. Or call the C.O.P.D. Information Line at 1-866-316-COPD (2673).

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