The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Psychological Side Effects of Lung Disease
How do you cope with a doctor telling you that you have a terminal, progressive illness? That your life will never be the same? This is a reality for the estimated 24 million adults suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the United States. When it comes to chronic lung diseases, most people only think of the typical symptoms: wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and fatigue. Many people do not think about the psychological side effects and stress that often accompany such a diagnosis, which can include anxiety, panic attacks, depression and low self-esteem.
Living with a chronic lung disease often requires that individuals make significant lifestyle modifications. A recent study completed at Edge Hill University found that the possible psychological effects of lung disease include stress and anxiety, depression, fear of dying and exacerbation, panic, altered body image, loss of control and autonomy, unwanted lifestyle changes, an altered role in the family dynamic, sense of worthlessness, denial, anger, loss of dignity, alternation of relationships, frustrations, guilt, loss of intimacy, irritability and impatience. These effects can either come directly from the condition itself or from the resulting lifestyle modifications required with a chronic lung condition.
Power of Positive Thinking
As Buddha once said: “We are what we think.” Positive thinking is the first step to better physical and mental wellbeing. Positive thinking doesn’t mean keeping your head in the sand and ignoring life’s less than pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.
For example, when diagnosed with a chronic lung disease like pulmonary fibrosis, you think: “This is not it. My life is not over. It’s just changing a little bit—a slight shift to the left. I can get through this just like anything else.” Feeling positive and optimistic will not always happen; there will be times when you will feel down and disappointed, and that is okay. What’s key is remembering to move on to more positive, self-affirming thoughts.
The power of positivity doesn’t simply lie in the ability to say three good things about yourself after you say something negative. Rather, the power of positivity lies in the opportunity to keep looking for new options. Barbara Fredrickson, a well-known positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, explains that positive thinking actually lends itself to seeing more possibilities.
“When you are experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings were among the first that proved that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind up to more options.”
Shifting your Mindset: Five Ways to Stay Positive
- Join the Zen Zone: Fredrickson and her partners emphasize that people who meditate daily actually display more positive emotions than those who do not.
- Just Write: There are many health benefits to journaling, one of which is increased positivity when journaling about intensely positive experiences. Not only can you relive the happiness as you write it, but you can also relive it every time you read it.
- Surround Yourself with Support: Joining a support group is a great way to learn more about your condition and new medical advancements. It can also help you make new friends and to maintain an active social life.
- Pause to Play: Oftentimes, we forget to make time for just having fun. Between work and home life, we forget that spending time with friends and participating in your hobbies are just as important to feeling well.
- Plan for Possibilities: As you begin to think more positively, you will begin to see more possibilities. Be ready for them, and be ready to seize the opportunities.
Breathing easier is possible. New medical advancements like stem cell therapy are helping chronic lung disease sufferers breathe easier and get back to the life they want. If you or a loved one is suffering from a chronic lung disease like COPD or interstitial lung disease, contact the Lung Institute at (800) 729-3065 to learn if stem cell therapy could help you breathe easier.