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Antidepressants and Anti-Anxiety Medications

Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has challenges that can affect a person’s emotional health. Many people with COPD develop depression and/or anxiety during the course of the disease.

Can anti-depressants help treat depression for people with COPD?

Having depression can make a person feel sad, hopeless, and lonely. It can make a person have very little energy or appetite. While everyone feels like this once in a while, depression makes a person feel like this all or most of the time.

Many people with COPD also have depression.1 Depression can be caused by the emotional stress of living with the disease. But it can also be caused, or made worse, by certain kinds of medicines that people with COPD take to manage their symptoms.

If healthcare providers think that a patient has signs of depression, they will check whether some other medication the patient is taking might be causing it. Sometimes changing the dose or switching to different medicine can help with the symptoms of depression. Anti-depressant medications may also be part of the treatment for depression, along with counseling or therapy.

Can anti-anxiety medications be helpful for COPD patients?

Anxiety is also common among people with COPD.1 Patients with anxiety may feel panicky, shaky, and short of breath. The anxiety can make feelings of breathlessness even worse than usual, which can then cause even worse anxiety.

Certain types of medicines that treat COPD symptoms can also make anxiety worse. Adjusting those medications can sometimes relieve the symptoms of anxiety. But for other people, medications to treat the symptoms of anxiety may be helpful. Medications may also be combined with counseling or therapy.

Are there risks linked to antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications?

All medications have side effects, including those for depression and anxiety. People who are considering taking these medications should talk to their doctor about the potential side effects.

Taking part in counseling and therapy can also help people who are experiencing depression or anxiety, whether used in combination with medication or by itself.

Written by: Anna Nicholson and Emily Downward | Last reviewed: April 2018.
  1. Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, 2018 Report. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Available at http://goldcopd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GOLD-2018-v6.0-FINAL-revised-20-Nov_WMS.pdf. Accessed 4/3/18.