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Asthma and Mental Health: Could I Be Suffering From Mental Health Disorders Like Depression Due to My Asthma?

Updated on July 19, 2018
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Dr Mushtahid is currently pursuing his Master of Public Health degree at the University of Malaya, Malaysia.

Asthma is linked to mental health disorders
Asthma is linked to mental health disorders

Studies have shown that asthmatics have a higher chance of developing a wide range of mental health disorders than the rest of the population. German and US researchers have found that the patients with severe asthma are twice more likely to have an anxiety disorder and 5 times more likely to develop panic attacks and specific phobias compared to the rest of the population of the same age. Mild asthmatics are twice more likely to develop mood disorders like depression.

What is the connection between asthma and anxiety disorders?

Although researches have shown that there is a link between asthma and anxiety disorders, the reason is still unclear.

  • One theory suggests that asthma - being a potentially life threatening and long term disease - causes increased level of anxiety which eventually develops into an anxiety disorder.
  • Another theory suggests that underlying anxiety aggravates the symptoms of asthma which might make people overuse their asthma relieving medication leading to increased heart rate and other symptoms of panic.

What can I do to help myself?

  • Try to manage your stress. Identify the cause of your stress and try to solve it intelligently. If you can’t solve it yourself then seek professional help.
  • Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Let others do their part of the job.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get a good night’s sleep!
  • Learn to relax. If possible learn to meditate.

What is the connection between asthma and depression?

Patients with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases are known to suffer more with depression than the general population. But in case of severe asthma, where the breathing is very stressful, depression maybe even more severe which can worsen the asthma symptoms. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder and researchers suggest that the connection between asthma and depression is this chronic inflammation:

  • Due to inflammation of the airway some changes occur in the brain. These changes produce symptoms which are seen in a person with depression. These symptoms could be depressed mood, decreased appetite, social isolation, lack of energy.
  • Asthma controller medications (inhalers and tablets) contain steroids. One of the side effects of steroid use is depression.

What can I do to help myself?

  • Make sure your asthma is under control. If you feel your asthma is getting severe or if you feel your medications are not working properly then consult your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Get to know the side effects of your medications.
  • If your doctor prescribes you antidepressants then take them properly.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Be social and interact more with people.
  • Keep negatives thoughts away and learn to think positively.

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