“John Smith” was diagnosed with Alpha-1 27 years ago. At the time, he had two young children, ages three and five.
“I didn’t know how to deal with that [being diagnosed.] People told me I had five years to live, so I guess the depression set in right then, but I didn’t realize it at the time,” Smith says. “I thought that somehow I could lie about it [his condition].”
It is estimated that up to 40 percent of COPD patients also suffer from depression. This number is much higher than patients dealing with other chronic diseases. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes you to feel sad most of the time.
“Well, the deal with this disease was that I was choking on my breath, and not knowing where I was going to end up. I was suffocating, frankly. So that’s what really brought on the depression,” he says.
COPD can cause changes in your body that predispose you to depression. For instance, COPD can alter the quality of your sleep, which can depress your mood. In some cases, patients feel sad because they can no longer participate in the activities that they enjoy because of breathlessness. Many times, it can also be difficult to be in public because some people feel self conscious about their oxygen or outings may be too tiring. This can lead to social isolation, which can also lead to depression.
Luckily, Smith says he has a great relationship with his family, and found encouragement through Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I realized that nothing was going to change, and it didn’t. I did start drinking to alleviate the pain, and it was the fellowship [from members of AA] that helped,” he says. “I’m also a firm believer in God, and it helped me to rely on Him.”
Some symptoms of depression- If you feel sad, down, hopeless or cranky most of the day, almost every day for most of the time for at least two weeks.
Exercise and joining a support group can help improve your mood. Smith says it helps you to get out of the “nest” you’re in, and connect to other people who are going through similar experiences.
“Don’t isolate yourself. Contact people who have the same disease, talk to them, and form a social relationship with them,” he says.
If you have questions, connect with the community on COPD360social.