The psychology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Purpose of review

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and is associated with significant individual and socioeconomic burden. Recent research has begun to acknowledge the important role of psychological factors in the course and management of the disease. Therefore, the present review provides an overview on recent findings on psychological factors in COPD with a specific focus on anxiety and depression.

Recent findings

Recent findings demonstrate high levels of anxiety and depression in COPD patients which are related to a considerably worse course of the disease. The exact causes for these findings are widely unknown, but several potential mechanisms have been suggested. Moreover, anxiety and depression often remain undetected and untreated in COPD patients. Although some beneficial effects of respective psychotropic and psychotherapeutic treatments have been reported, future well-controlled studies regarding their efficacy are mandatory.


Comorbid anxiety and depression in patients with COPD are a major health problem requiring intensified research activities. Future studies need to examine the exact links between COPD and these psychological comorbidities, and how their detection and treatment can be improved in the clinical setting.

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