Emotional isolation

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Following diagnosis with COPD, a common problem is the build-up of confusing emotions such as fear, loss, sadness or frustration. This is perfectly normal.

The information overload you experience (having to learn a whole new vocabulary relating to COPD) can be overwhelming. The longer you have COPD, the more this can weigh on your mind, and it may affect your relationships with friends and family. Though difficult, it is important to share your problems so that you don’t feel shut off from others.

  • Around 40% of people with COPD experience depression
  • Some avoid talking about emotions to avoid getting upset or suffering a potential exacerbation. This can lead to exaggerated emotions, which just add to the “shutting off” effect, and may leave you feeling trapped in an “emotional straightjacket”
  • Some people can’t put their emotions into words. This causes people to distance themselves from loved ones to try to contain their emotions. As friends and family get pushed away, COPD suffers can be left feeling more and more isolated, a kind of vicious circle

There is good news: emotional isolation is something you can address. Little by little, you can learn to identify your emotions and develop ways to focus your energy on feeling better – this isn’t a quick fix, but it may help to brighten your everyday living with COPD.

Write it down

Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be an effective way to start, especially if you feel embarrassed talking about COPD. Try making a list or writing a letter to see if you feel a little lighter. When you’ve written it down, think about sharing this with someone, so that they understand how you’re feeling.

Talk to someone

You’re not alone in your COPD journey. Far from it! You can talk to friends, to family or to medical professionals to lessen your COPD burden:

  • Explain how you feel
  • Tell them how you would like to be feeling
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for support

That first conversation may be difficult, but it will be worth it.

Find a community

Join our COPD: Life is Calling Facebook community by clicking “Like” on our page. If you want to share and hear stories, or get more information on support networks, check out your local patient group.

For help getting online, we have some great resources available here.

Also read

Inspiring Stories

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“I wouldn’t think I was as strong as I was, beforehand… I have got a backbone now. I don’t know where I’ve got it from… That has liberated me.”

Paula, Ireland

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April 2016

GLRESP/COPD/0117