Tackling the COPD-Anxiety Feedback Loop

According to the World Health Organization, more than 3.5 million people worldwide died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2015. Moreover, experts predict that this number will continue to rise in the coming decades. In the United States alone, there are currently more than 16 million Americans suffering from COPD. Worldwide, this number is estimated to be 65 million people.

COPD generally takes one of two forms: chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Both diseases are characterized by shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and coughing. Understandably, one major consequence of COPD — a disease which causes an individual to feel as though they are suffocating — is anxiety.

Anxiety itself can be a difficult illness to manage. When it is combined with COPD, it usually makes the symptoms of COPD far worse. It can have such a profound effect on patients suffering from COPD that it can actually cause an increased inability to breathe, and often results in increased emergency room visits.

Recently a team of researchers at the NHS Foundation Trust, along with colleagues at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, tested the effectiveness of treating anxiety in patients with COPD using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Their goal was to see if CBT would improve quality of life for patients suffering from COPD, and to further determine if a reduction in anxiety would lead to a reduction in the number of hospital visits.

The results of their study, published in the journal ERJ Open Research, demonstrated that patients treated with behavioral cognitive therapy experienced far fewer symptoms of anxiety, and reported an improved quality of life. According to lead researcher Karen Heslop-Marshall:

“Reducing the levels of anxiety patients experience has a significant impact on their quality of life as well as their ability to keep physically active, and may improve survival in the long-term. Our research shows that frontline respiratory staff can deliver this intervention efficiently and effectively.”

The researchers also point out that although the psychological intervention initially added cost to the care of patients with COPD, this cost was more than balanced by their need for fewer hospital visits.

Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, specializes in pulmonary care. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease, including COPD.

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