Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can cause significant changes in your body. Breathlessness, weight loss, sleeping and eating problems, and depletion of energy are just a few of the physical changes you’ll likely experience over the course of the disease.

These changes can lead to feelings of loss, frustration, or sadness as you can no longer do the things you used to enjoy. You may even experience depression, a mood disorder characterized by sadness and disinterest.

When you’re depressed, you may find yourself mourning the life you had before COPD. Research estimates that up to 57% of those with COPD live with depression.

Depression can also make your physical symptoms worse. For instance, feeling “down” all the time can make it hard for you to follow your treatment plan. You may find that it’s easy to forget your medications or not exercise. You may even turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or other unhealthy habits to cope, which can cause more harm to your body.

Symptoms of depression can overlap with symptoms of COPD. This can make it tricky to recognize the symptoms of depression. Paying attention to your feelings and mental state can help you and your doctor tell the difference.

Signs of depression include:

  • irritability or anger with others
  • being sad for weeks at a time or crying a lot
  • feeling hopeless or even suicidal
  • sensitivity to criticism
  • feeling guilty or worthless

Other common symptoms of depression include:

  • trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • lack of interest in people or activities you once enjoyed
  • lethargy and lack of motivation
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • inability to enjoy yourself or find humor in things

Help is out there

If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.

If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.

Was this helpful?

If you have five or more of these symptoms, you may be experiencing a major depressive episode and it’s important to talk with your doctor. They may want to prescribe a medication to help alleviate your depression. It’s essential to find the right medication for you because many antidepressants can interfere with medications you may already take for your COPD.

Two medications that doctors prescribe for depression in people with COPD are sertraline (Zoloft) or citalopram (Celexa). It can take up to 8 weeks for an antidepressant to take full effect, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away.

Besides medication, many people who live with depression find relief by seeing a mental health specialist. Individual therapy and group therapy can help you learn how to cope with COPD and adapt to your life with this condition.

One way to find a therapist is to get a reference from your pulmonologist or primary care doctor. They may know of a mental health professional who has experience working with COPD patients.

Support groups may also be beneficial for people with COPD who are experiencing depression. Being in a setting with others facing many of the same problems can help you feel less alone.

You may discover some actionable tips and advice for coping by talking with others. With the right combination of treatments, you’ll likely be better able to cope with your COPD.

A variety of online support groups are also available for people with COPD. A quick search on the Internet can give you many options. Many popular sites have forums or discussion groups where members can share their feelings with an understanding group of peers.

Remember that you aren’t the first person to feel this way. Talking with someone from the comfort of your home can be a great first step to reaching out for help with depression.

The symptoms of COPD can naturally lead to feelings of sadness or loss. However, in some people, those feelings develop into clinical depression.

Getting treatment for depression is important for your mental, emotional, and physical health. When you’re depressed, you may not take proper care of yourself or follow your treatment plan, which can make your COPD worse.

There are a variety of treatments available to help you cope with COPD and depression, including medication, therapy, and support groups. Consider speaking with your doctor to determine what treatment plan is best for you.