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Signs of Depression in COPD Patients|Antidepressants and Therapies to Treat COPD-Related Depression

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to refer to chronic, inflammatory lung diseases that cause obstruction in the airflow to the lungs. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the major diseases that come under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Symptoms of COPD include wheezing, cough, excess mucus production, difficulty breathing, eating, and sleeping problems. COPD brings about a lot of changes in the body. From the common symptoms mentioned above to fatigue and depletion of energy, these are just some of the physical changes that an individual experiences over the course of this progressive disease. These changes often lead to feelings of frustration, loss, and sadness primarily because you can no longer do the things you once used to enjoy doing. People with COPD are more likely to experience depression, a mood disorder that causes you to experience persistent feelings of sadness, and you develop an overall disinterest in everything. Here’s everything you need to know about overcoming depression with COPD.

Signs of Depression in COPD Patients

Signs of Depression in COPD Patients

When you are depressed, you can get stuck feeling helpless and lose all interest in life as you knew it before you got diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. According to a study carried out by Trusted Source, it is estimated that 40 percent of people with COPD suffer from depression.(1, 2, 3) Individuals with depression also risk making their physical symptoms worse. For example, if you feel sad and ‘down’ all the time, it can make it challenging for you to follow your treatment plan. You may find that you easily forget to take your medications, or you decide to go ahead and exercise. Many people turn to cigarettes, alcohol, or other unhealthy habits to cope with their depression, which causes further harm to the body.(4, 5, 6)

The symptoms of depression can sometimes overlap with the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This makes it challenging to recognize the symptoms of depression. It is important that people with COPD pay attention to their mental state and feelings so that it is possible to tell the difference. While it is common for every one of us to have a bad day every now and then, but when you are depressed, you are likely to feel:(7, 8, 9)

  • Being sad for weeks at a time
  • Crying a lot
  • Irritable or angry with others for no reason
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Being overly sensitive to criticism
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Some of the other common symptoms of depression include:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Lack of interest in activities or people you once used to enjoy
  • Increase or decrease in your appetite
  • Inability to enjoy yourself or find humor in things

Antidepressants for Treating COPD-related Depression

If you have several of depression symptoms, it is important to discuss your mental state with your doctor. Your doctor may want to prescribe a medication like an antidepressant to help relieve your depression. It is important to find the right type of medication because many antidepressants tend to interfere with the medications you are already taking for managing your COPD.(10, 11)

The two most common medications that doctors prescribe for the treatment of depression in people with COPD are citalopram (brand name Celexa) and sertraline (brand name Zoloft). It can take up to eight to ten weeks for an antidepressant to take full effect, so you need to have patience and don’t expect to see results right away.(12, 13)

Therapies To Treat COPD-Related Depression

Apart from medication, many people who have COPD and suffer from depression may find relief by consulting a mental health professional. Individual therapy and group therapy can both help in learning how to cope with the disease and adapt to life with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. You can get a reference for a mental health specialist from your primary care doctor or pulmonologist. They are likely to know of a reliable mental health doctor who has experience working with COPD patients.

People with COPD who are experiencing depression may also find it beneficial to join support groups. Being in a setting with other people who are also going through the same problems can help you feel less alone. You may even discover many real-life tips and advice on how to cope when you talk to others. With the right combination of treatments, you will be better able to cope with your COPD and also deal with your depression.

There are many online support groups that are there to help people with COPD and depression. A simple search on the internet will help you find many options. Many of these support sites have discussion groups or forums where members can share their feelings with a group of peers who understand the situation you are in. It is important to realize that you are not the first person to feel this way.


It is natural for people with COPD to experience feelings of loss or sadness. In some people, though, these feelings can develop into clinical depression. Seeking help and getting treated for depression is important for ensuring your good physical, mental, and emotional health. When you are depressed, you may not be in the right condition to take proper care of yourself or follow your treatment plan, which can worsen the symptoms of your COPD. There are a wide variety of treatments available to help you cope with both COPD and depression.


  1. Stage, K.B., Middelboe, T., Stage, T.B. and Sørensen, C.H., 2006. Depression in COPD–management and quality of life considerations. International journal of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 1(3), p.315.
  2. Schneider, C., Jick, S.S., Bothner, U. and Meier, C.R., 2010. COPD and the risk of depression. Chest, 137(2), pp.341-347.
  3. Yohannes, A.M. and Alexopoulos, G.S., 2014. Depression and anxiety in patients with COPD. European Respiratory Review, 23(133), pp.345-349.
  4. Di Marco, F., Verga, M., Reggente, M., Casanova, F.M., Santus, P., Blasi, F., Allegra, L. and Centanni, S., 2006. Anxiety and depression in COPD patients: the roles of gender and disease severity. Respiratory medicine, 100(10), pp.1767-1774.
  5. Stage, K.B., Middelboe, T., Stage, T.B. and Sørensen, C.H., 2006. Depression in COPD–management and quality of life considerations. International journal of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 1(3), p.315.
  6. Maurer, J., Rebbapragada, V., Borson, S., Goldstein, R., Kunik, M.E., Yohannes, A.M. and Hanania, N.A., 2008. Anxiety and depression in COPD: current understanding, unanswered questions, and research needs. Chest, 134(4), pp.43S-56S.
  7. Comstock, G.W. and Helsing, K.J., 1977. Symptoms of depression in two communities. Psychological medicine, 6(4), pp.551-563.
  8. Sobin, C. and Sackeim, H.A., 1997. Psychomotor symptoms of depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154(1), pp.4-17.
  9. Kendler, K.S., Heath, A.C., Martin, N.G. and Eaves, L.J., 1987. Symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of depression: same genes, different environments?. Archives of general psychiatry, 44(5), pp.451-457.
  10. Mikkelsen, R.L., Middelboe, T., Pisinger, C. and Stage, K.B., 2004. Anxiety and depression in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A review. Nordic journal of psychiatry, 58(1), pp.65-70.
  11. Wagena, E.J., Huibers, M.J.H. and Van Schayck, C.P., 2001. Antidepressants in the treatment of patients with COPD: possible associations between smoking cigarettes, COPD and depression. Thorax, 56(8), pp.587-588.
  12. Palmer, S.M., Clary, G.L., Babyak, M.A., Wilkerson, N., Silvertooth, E., Hellegars, C. and Doraiswamy, P.M., 2002. A preliminary randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study of the effects of citalopram (Celexa) on depression, anxiety and quality of life in patients with severe COPD.(COPD: 12: 00pm-1: 45pm). Chest, 122(4), pp.144S-144S.
  13. Pirraglia, P.A., Charbonneau, A., Kader, B. and Berlowitz, D.R., 2006. Adequate initial antidepressant treatment among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a cohort of depressed veterans. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 8(2), p.71.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 3, 2022

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