a sad looking woman who's hair is also a dark cloud with rain around her

Day From Hell

Once in awhile, there’s a day from hell when, as you wake up, things seem a little bleak. I had one of those the other day although I realized that I had also had a dream that I was riding a bicycle and that made me smile.

Luckily, for me at least, these kinds of days don’t happen too often. But, I read messages from some other COPD folks where it seems to be a daily occurrence. That worries me.

Resplendent blue and gloomy grey

Here, in the Northeast USA, winter can be a beautiful season. It seems that the blueness of the sky is resplendent and the sunsets can’t be beaten! But there are also grey days – gloomy days – and they can have a severe impact on a person's mood no matter how cheerful they usually are.

When I was in college (100 years ago) those were good days to “cut class,” stay in bed, and “snuzzle” (Brooklynese for snuggle) with a loved one. They were also good days to catch up on reading – probably not for class but for those novels that just kept piling up on the nightstand.

Common in COPD patients

With COPD, it’s very easy to get depressed and/or anxious, as most of us know, but maybe more so than we think. According to the American Lung Association, anxiety and depression are both more common in people living with COPD than they are in the general population.1

Clinical anxiety is defined as “constant worrying and anticipating the worst” in a way that makes it difficult to function in life. For folks like us who live with COPD, shortness of breath can cause anxiety and even panic attacks.1 Clinical depression is described as a “feeling of deep sadness or emptiness that lasts longer than a couple of weeks.”2 Depression can prevent you from enjoying your recreation, family, friends, and job. Sometimes it affects more than just your mood.2

Unfortunately, depression and anxiety often go unrecognized and untreated because it’s been said and written that there is not enough information available to “guide health-care professionals in the management of these symptoms.”3

Communication and symptom recognition

Like much of what we’ve learned about COPD, I think it’s up to us to let our health care providers or caretakers or family or friends know how we are feeling. Are we anxious? Are we dreading things in general? Are we oversleeping? Overeating?

Here's a quick checklist of depression symptoms, courtesy of the University of California/Los Angeles’ Resnick Hospital.4

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Isolation
  • Appetite disturbance
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Dependence on mood-altering substances
  • Feeling a sense of inappropriate guilt
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or a suicide attempt

If the list sounds familiar, you may want to see a counselor or a psychiatrist, ASAP!

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