A woman comforting a man who is coughing

How to Build More Sympathy for COPD

Last updated: November 2020

Sometimes when a person is sick, we find it easy to show love and compassion. Other times, trying to understand what a person is going through with their health issues can be difficult. If someone you love has been diagnosed with breathing difficulties, maybe you wonder how to build more sympathy for COPD patients.

Sympathy vs empathy when it comes to COPD

First, understand that empathy and sympathy are not the same things. Empathy is the ability to experience how another person feels. It is usually because you have gone through something similar and can put yourself in their shoes. Sympathy, on the other hand, is being able to see what someone is going through and providing comfort, encouragement, or reassurance to them even though their experience is different than yours.

In a medical setting, most health care providers are not empathetic but can show sympathy toward their patient. They do their best to provide plans for recovery or relief for each patient. There is a level of respect that is understood in the medical environment that would not allow lack of sympathy, or even stigma, to prevent good medical care.

In social, or family situations, some members may identify with the symptoms of COPD, such as shortness of breath, inability to move quickly, or fatigue. However, they may not feel any empathy at all. With practice, they can still have sympathy for their acquaintance, friend, or loved one.

Tips to build more sympathy for COPD


Heartfelt caring for another human being can be a bridge that builds greater compassion for someone with COPD. Opening yourself up to care about the frailness of another person is the core of our humanity. One of the greatest gifts that a human can offer is to peer inside another person's suffering even though you don’t understand it.


Many times, we want a quick solution to someone else’s physical problems with lung disease. When the patient continues to experience long term, ongoing health needs, it gives us an opportunity to practice patience with the situation. Patience can be a powerful force in a person’s life. Knowing that someone is waiting beside them, without judgment or criticism, can make a big difference.


Much like patience, this is the ability to stay on course in spite of obstacles. When a person has COPD, they may have periods of relief, where they don’t need as much care, only to be followed by a great need for calm support, steady friendship, or even caregiving. We remain steadfast for them and put any differences in ideas or values aside.

Why I learned sympathy

As the daughter of a mom who had lung disease from smoking for many years, I learned how to build more sympathy for COPD to help myself, and my family. It helped us all to keep the bonds strong. This is powerful, especially in a close relationship that requires communication. In order to build more sympathy for COPD, it is important to open your mind to someone's experience from their perspective. Everyone will reap the benefits by being generous of heart with someone we care for.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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