Newly Diagnosed with COPD: How Will I Cope?
As I was browsing the internet, I came across a blog posted on CNN. A woman who was recently diagnosed asked what COPD was, and what could she expect.
“Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a disease that truly negatively affects quality of life. Patients with COPD are prone to asthma-like wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing that can occur in episodes caused by chronic inflammation. They're also prone to viral and bacterial infections.
It is the fourth most common cause of death in the United States, killing an estimated 120,000 people each year. While COPD is most noted for episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing, the disease is typically slowly progressive and persistent. Medical treatment can be successful in relieving symptoms and reducing the severity of exacerbations.
Treatment is with inhaled bronchodilators, steroids to reduce inflammation and other oral medications.”
Despite COPD actually being the THIRD leading cause of death in the U.S., this description is correct. But what's missing from it is describing what it's like emotionally about your COPD diagnosis.
You may have felt stunned when you first learned of your diagnosis. If you had never heard of COPD before, the explanation you received may have seemed pretty mysterious and even frightening. Or maybe you felt relieved to finally know what was causing your symptoms. Some people respond to learning about their breathing problems by diving right in and learning everything they can about it. They feel like they are taking charge and exerting some control over their condition. Other people prefer to learn about lung disease more slowly. This gives them time to let the information sink in. It gives time to think about their questions. These are just two examples of the kinds of coping styles people commonly use when they learn about their medical condition.
Psychologists have identified a set of emotional responses to loss. Known as the “Grieving Process,” it includes five stages. As you adjust to the diagnosis of COPD and some loss of lung function, you are likely to have many of these emotions. However, you may not necessarily move in a step-wise fashion from stage 1 to stage 5. Sometimes people go backwards and forwards as they move through this process. There is no set time limit for completing any of these stages.
The Grieving Process Five Phases:
There are also different coping styles among people. Here are some of them.
- Confrontive coping: Involves aggressive efforts to change the situation. It suggests some degree of risk-taking.
- Distancing: A conscious effort to detach oneself and to minimize the importance of the situation.
- Self-controlling: An effort to regulate one’s feelings and actions.
- Seeking social support: An effort to seek real support such as financial assistance and emotional support.
- Accepting responsibility: Acknowledges one’s own role in the problem along with trying to put things right.
- Escape-avoidance: Involves wishful thinking and efforts to escape or avoid the problem.
- Planful problem-solving: Involves purposeful problem-focused efforts to change the situation. Includes a logical approach to solving the problem.
- Positive reappraisal: An effort to create positive meaning by focusing on personal growth. It may have a religious aspect.
What are some things you do to cope? What was it like for you when you were diagnosed? What advice would you give to newly diagnosed individuals with COPD?