This World Mental Health Day, we’re focusing on the impact that living with health conditions can have on our mental health. Some of the most debilitating conditions are those that affect our ability to breathe, known as respiratory diseases.
One in every five people in the UK are living with some form of lung disease1, this could be asthma, bronchiolitis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Although both are lung diseases, the two conditions are distinct. COPD is an umbrella term for conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, characterised by airflow obstruction and difficulty breathing. IPF, on the other hand, is a type of lung disease that results in lung tissue scarring, making it increasingly difficult for the lungs to function properly.
It’s estimated that 30,000 people in the UK are living with IPF2 and 1.2 million with COPD3.
One of the many ways that these respiratory conditions can impact mental health is due to their symptoms, shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue, leading to anxiety. Individuals become hyper-aware of their breathing; this heightened state of anxiety can progress to panic attacks, making even simple activities like walking or climbing stairs feel like insurmountable challenges.
In a survey conducted with people living with COPD, it was found that around half of the respondents had moderate to severe anxiety disorder4.
Furthermore, the limitations imposed by these diseases can have a profound impact on individuals’ mental health. The inability to engage in activities they once enjoyed, such as exercise, coupled with the chronic nature of these conditions, can lead to depression.
In another survey with patients living with IPF, 42% of respondents presented with depressive symptoms5.
These depressive symptoms can be further intensified by the isolating nature of these conditions. Social gatherings and outings may be avoided due to the fear of breathlessness or embarrassment about their condition. This isolation can exacerbate depression and loneliness, creating a vicious cycle that further erodes mental health.
For those experiencing mental health struggles while living with respiratory conditions, there are strategies and treatments that can help individuals manage the emotional toll. Medical and therapeutic help in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or prescribed anxiety or depression medication may help reduce these feelings. Furthermore, support networks of friends and family, and encouraging open communication can be invaluable in coping with the emotional aspects of these diseases. Joining a support group, be it in-person events or online, with other individuals facing similar challenges can also provide a sense of belonging and understanding.
Charities such as Asthma + Lung UK organise local support groups where people living with lung conditions can access help and advice for managing their condition as well as meeting with others who are going through a similar experience.
Living with COPD and IPF is not just a physical struggle, it’s a profound emotional challenge as well and here at MAC Clinical Research we want to reduce any potential triggers for anxiety or depression. Did you know? All of our clinics are fully accessible and, where necessary, we can arrange transport to and from our clinics.
MAC Clinical Research is committed to improving the quality of life for those living with respiratory diseases through clinical trials. MAC is looking for volunteers with COPD or IPF aged 40+ (ages 40-85 with COPD) to take part in their latest paid clinical research, investigating potential new treatment options.
The clinical trials are running at several MAC Clinical Research clinics, primarily across the north of England. Eligible participants for the trials will receive reimbursement for their time and commitment to the trial, plus reasonable travel expenses or transport to clinic will be provided, as well as a full medical check-up.
1 European Respiratory Journal – Burden of lung disease in the UK; findings from the British Lung Foundation’s ‘respiratory health of the nation’ project
2 British Thoracic Society – BTS ILD Registry Annual Report 2020: a summary of the UK IPF Registry for the general public
4 Iranian Journal of Psychiatry – Severity of Anxiety Disorders in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
5 Frontiers in Medicine – Impact of Depression on Patients With Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis