Becca Blond’s story of how she was able to travel again when she discovered how her dogs helped her from her anixity disorder and panic attacks.
Her self-written article really helps show how animals do help to keep humans calm. The story is very heart-warming that has allowed her to travel and see the world again.
Read how Bobbi, Becca’s dog helped her…
Around three years ago I had a panic attack — which also makes my blood pressure shoot up — during a routine check-up at O’Donnell’s office. My ex had driven me to the appointment that day and was waiting outside with one of our rescue dogs, Bobbi. O’Donnell suggested I bring the pup inside, as I usually feel calmer in the presence of my dogs. With Bobbi next to me, my blood pressure returned to a more normal level and the anxiety began to recede.
The characteristic symptoms of COPD include a chronic and progressive cough and sputum production that can be variable from day to day; it may start off intermittently but towards the end will be frequent throughout the day.
The cough itself is an important defence mechanism that helps to clear foreign bodies and excess mucus from the lungs to allow better breathing. However a chronic cough has been found to be associated with detrimental psychological and physical effects on the patient’s life.
Depression, muscle strain and fatigue, sleep deprivation, incontinence and vomiting are all directly associated with coughing. Other related symptoms are rib fractures, fatigue, embarrassment, unconsciousness, difficult conversations on the phone, hoarse sound, unable to stand close to the their relatives due to their cough, and an inability to work in school or elsewhere.
In this new study it has been shown that a lower cough-specific quality of life is associated with a lessened ability to carry out daily activities due to its negative effect on fatigue and lower abdominal muscle endurance, and higher depression levels are also usually observed in patients with COPD.
When coughing the contraction of abdominal muscles is required. However with a chronic cough this can lead to a decline in the endurance of these muscles due to repeated overuse and resulting in them working ineffectively and not being able to help aid the cough or mucus clearance.
In a study of COPD patients with chronic coughs 33% were identified as anxious while 16% experienced depression and approximately 48% of all coughers had moderate or high trait anxiety. Also in general patients were at a higher risk of suffering from phobic anxiety, obsessional tendencies and depression showing that this group of individuals suffered from an emotional and psychological impact on their lives from their chronic cough.
53% of the group attended a speciality centre to help treat their chronic cough and depressive symptoms and there was a statistical improvement in both cough severity and depression scores after three months. This reinforces the fact that quality of life and chronic cough are linked but also that there is treatment to help improve both.
If cough is an important part of COPD and contributes to deterioration in quality of life, the symptom should be controlled and see your doctor who can help to ease your cough which in turn will hopefully improve your quality of life whether physically, psychologically or both.
Ensuring that you follow your doctor’s advice regarding medications and oxygen therapy regime, exercising and eating correctly will help to ensure that you are easing the COPD symptoms as much as possible and therefore also the cough. If you find you are coughing more and gasping for breath maybe your medical oxygen requirements need altering; whether it be an increased flow rate or different machinery to fit your lifestyle. Ask your doctor straight away as anything that you can do to ease the coughing and breathlessness will not only instantly improve your medical condition but will indirectly improve your general quality of life.
Many people who suffer from COPD also struggle with anxiety. When you have trouble breathing your brain triggers a response to warn you that something is wrong which can cause panic and sensations of anxiety. Also people find they suffer anxiety due to worrying and being stressed about the condition and prognosis as the disease worsens as well as being linked to depression which many COPD patient’s suffer from. Medications used to treat COPD can also trigger anxiety too.
The Breathlessness-Anxiety Cycle
It is often a vicious cycle where feeling breathless can cause panic and anxiety, which in turn makes it more difficult to breathe. This cycle can be difficult to break and the symptoms of COPD become indistinguishable from the symptoms of anxiety. Many are confused and make lots of trips to the doctors. Many people avoid enjoying social and leisure activities that can cause breathlessness out of fear from potentially experiencing anxiety that may be caused.
Having some degree of anxiety when you have a chronic disease can be a good thing. It can make you pay attention to your symptoms and follow your treatment plan. It can also warn you when you need to seek medical attention, but too much anxiety can severely impact the quality of your life.
Coping With Anxiety
Coping with anxiety can be tricky especially as many medications have a negative impact on your health if you are suffering with COPD as they can cause decreased rate of breathing and interact with other COPD medications.
Your doctor can help you to determine what medication will work best for you. Some people with COPD find relief with non-addictive anti-anxiety medications which don’t interfere with breathing.
Medications are helpful but their effectiveness will be increased by other means of reducing anxiety. Ask your doctor about referral to a pulmonary rehabilitation program, where you will receive education about COPD and get help with coping strategies to deal with your anxiety. One of the most important things that you learn in pulmonary rehabilitation is how to breathe more effectively.
Breathing techniques such as “pursed lip breathing” can help to take the work out of breathing, slow your breathing down, keep your airway open for longer—and help you to relax. To do pursed lip breathing, you simply relax your upper body, and then breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of two. Then with lips pursed as if you were going to whistle, you breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of four.
Many people with COPD find that individual counselling is effective in reducing anxiety. One common type of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy helps people with anxiety symptoms decrease them through learning relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
Group counselling, such as support groups can also help you to learn how to cope with COPD – and your anxiety – and being with others who have some of the same problems can help you to feel less alone.
Many find that if they are in the breathlessness/anxiety cycle then by immediately treating the breathlessness can instantly lessen the feelings of anxiety. By having a portable oxygen concentrator you have access to your oxygen wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and if needed can use it when you are feeling short of breath. Knowing that you have the portable concentrator to hand can also in itself reduce your anxiety levels and help prevent episodes as you have that security and peace of mind that if your anxiety or COPD symptoms suddenly flare up that you have something close to hand to instantly resolve it.