Improving COPD by treating anxiety and depression

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) causes difficulty breathing and progressively gets worse. COPD is also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.Past studies report that COPD patients often also suffer from anxiety and depression due to symptoms such as chronic coughing and difficulty breathing, which can interrupt daily activities. In hopes of creating better treatment plans for those with COPD, a study seen in the September 2014 issue of Egyptian Journal of Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis examines the efficacy of treating anxiety and depression to improve the quality of life for COPD patients.

Incorporating Antidepressants and Anxiolytics Into COPD Therapy

The study examined 33 males and 17 females with severe COPD who were also diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Depression was assessed using the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The MADRS indicates if the patient has non-existing, mild, moderate, or severe levels of depression. Similar to the MADRS, the Hamilton Anxiety (HAM-A) measured levels of anxiety. The scales revealed that:

  • 32 patients suffered from depression alone
  • 5 patients suffered from anxiety alone
  • 13 patients had both anxiety and depression

The 50 subjects were then split into two groups of 25: group I would be treated for anxiety and depression, while group II served as the control. Group I was treated with antidepressants and anxiolytics for three months. Antidepressants are prescribed medications that are commonly used to treat moderate to severe depression. Common antidepressants include Celexa and Prozac. To treat anxiety, anxiolytics such as Xanax and Klonopin are often prescribed. For this study, group I took 20mg of Fluoxetine daily. This particular drug was chosen because it serves as both an antidepressant and anxiolytic.

Medicated Treatment Shows Significant Reduction in Depression and Anxiety

At the end of the three months, the participants were reassessed with the MADRS and HAM-A. Those who received medicated treatment for their anxiety and depression showed significantly lower scores on both scales, suggesting that their mental health had improved. Osama M. Momtaz, the head researcher of this study, recommends physicians treat anxiety and depression in COPD because “it is associated with a significant improvement in pulmonary physiological parameters.” In other words, decreasing anxiety and depression also increases physical health, thus improving a COPD patient’s quality of life.

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