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Coping With COPD


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a chronic and progressive disease that affects the lungs of an individual usually after years of smoking. This disease can be devastating to both the person and the family members who are affected. But through pulmonary rehabilitation and an aggressive medical management program the progression can be delayed.

So while this vigorous treatment protocol is working to manage the disease the individual is now faced with coping with the debilitating effects of the disease for longer and longer periods of time. By making some lifestyle changes and taking an active role in treatment most people can resume many of their regular activities while following the advice of your health practitioner.

One of the most important pieces of learning to cope with this disease is learning how to read your body. It’s a balance between losing physical efficiency when you don’t exercise or pushing your body too hard when it requires rest. Finding that balance will help the individual make great strides in the success of their rehabilitation program.

At any time after a hospitalization for COPD the physician will give you a recommendation as to when you can return to work based on your physical abilities and your work environment. It is good for individuals to work as long as they are physically able. Depending upon the physical demands of the job there may have to be some changes to the job-related responsibilities. Staying at work will only reduce the risk of depression and anxiety related to the disease process.

The diagnosis of COPD can be devastating. Especially as symptoms increase and energy decreases concerns about the future are bound to increase your risk of anger, depression and worry. But taking charge of your health and making positive changes in your rehabilitation will help to improve your overall outlook. There are other things that you can do to stave off feelings of depression and anxiety. If you do think about suicide or feel worthless or helpless it’s important to contact your health care practitioner or an emergency mental health group immediately.

On a daily basis it’s important to get up and get dressed every day to keep away the blues. It’s also important to get out of the house and walk when possible, keep up with friends and activities and share your feelings with a trusted friend, spouse or clergy. Not only is nutrition important in your health care but so is getting a good night’s rest to keep away the emotional impact of COPD. Setting and following a realistic daily schedule will also help to give your mind structure to follow daily.

COPD will affect every aspect of the life of the person experiencing the symptoms, including their physical relationship with their spouse. The effects can change the energy level, desire or ability to participate in sexual activity. But, keeping in mind that a sexual relationship is both emotional and physical it is important that the sufferer talk openly with their partner and find different ways to express their affection. People with COPD are able to enjoy an active sex life but should have realistic expectations about their performance and have sex only when they feel well rested and physically comfortable. Medications can affect arousal and performance so talking with your health practitioner about your concerns may lead to another combination of medications which don’t have these same effects. Some people also find that using a bronchodilator will relax the passages and help breathing. Taking oxygen either before or during activity may also be helpful.

Stress and anxiety are another factor that will decrease the ability to breathe and make the symptoms of COPD worse. Stress reduction is an important piece of the puzzle. There are several tried and true methods of reducing the amount of stress that is experience. These include learning to change your thought patterns, reducing the cause of the stress, using relaxation exercise, exercise, adequate sleep, following good nutritional guidelines and delegating responsibility to others.

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