Dealing with patients’ anxiety crucial in chronic lung disease

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Lungs, respiratory disease, COPD

Study shows nurses can teach patients to deal with anxiety

Teaching patients to reduce anxiety can help alleviate chronic lung disease symptoms.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered by respiratory nurses is cost-effective and reduces anxiety symptoms in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. This is according to research published in ERJ Open Research.

COPD is a long-term condition that causes inflammation in the lungs, narrowing of the airways and damaged lung tissue, making breathing difficult. Not being able to breathe causes anxiety and the anxiety worsens symptoms.

One of the main symptoms of COPD is breathlessness. This is very frightening and often leads to feelings of anxiety

Anxiety often occurs alongside COPD and can mean that patients do less physical activity, leading to loss of fitness, isolation, and deteriorating health overall.

The new study found that brief CBT sessions with respiratory nurses reduced feelings of anxiety for patients with COPD and resulted in less frequent use of A&E and hospital services.

Dr Karen Heslop-Marshall, a Nurse Consultant at Newcastle-upon-Tyne NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University, UK, was lead researcher on the study. She explains: “One of the main symptoms of COPD is breathlessness. This is very frightening and often leads to feelings of anxiety. Many healthcare professionals do not currently screen COPD patients for symptoms of anxiety, even though it can have an impact on their overall health.”

She added: “Feeling anxious has a negative impact on patients’ quality of life and leads to more frequent use of healthcare resources. We wanted to test whether one-to-one CBT sessions delivered by respiratory nurses could reduce symptoms of anxiety and whether this could be a cost-effective intervention.”