Mental Health

Being diagnosed with a lung disease or lung cancer can be overwhelming. You may feel that life is now different – the world has somehow changed – and you may experience feelings of confusion, isolation and distress. These feelings are normal for people living with a lung disease or lung cancer. It is important to consider not only your physical health, but also your mental health.

Mental health 

For people living with lung disease or lung cancer, mental health and emotional wellbeing are important aspects of managing your condition, as research has shown that mental health can have a significant impact on physical health. It can be easy to neglect your mental health when faced with the physical challenges of a lung condition, however, the two should not be thought of separately.  

The topic of mental health is commonly misunderstood and often trivialised. Most people tend to mistake mental health for mental health conditions – which are conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour, such as depression and anxiety conditions. However, mental health actually refers to being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy. 

It is important to have regular discussions with your treating healthcare team or GP about your mental health and emotional wellbeing, including steps you can take to proactively care for and manage your mental health.   

Self-care

Self-care is about undertaking any activity that can help with your physical, emotional and mental health. It is a regular commitment to look after yourself through activities that can help to protect your wellbeing. Paying attention to what is happening to yourself both physically and emotionally, can help to identify when something is affecting you adversely. 

It is important to take time out when you need take care of your mental and physical health. Self-care can be an everyday way of living by including it into your day-to-day routine to maintain positive wellbeing. It can take many shapes and forms and may be different for everyone. Self-care doesn’t need to take up a lot of time or cost a lot of money. People benefit from self-care in different ways. It is important to identify the activities which will be most beneficial to you.  

Download our self-care template to start planning your self-care strategies.  

Mental Health Conditions

  • Depression 

    The physical impacts of living with a lung disease, such as breathlessness and fatigue, may cause feelings of stress and anxiousness. You may experience temporary feelings such as sadness or irritability, but if these are persistent and last longer than a couple of weeks, it may be an indication of depression. People living with a chronic or progressive illness are at an increased risk of experiencing depression.  

    Depression is a complex condition and people experience depression in varying ways. Signs and symptoms of depression include negative changes to your thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical wellbeing.  

    Beyond Blue outlines the common signs and symptoms of depression as  

    • Feelings – irritability, frustration, sadness, unhappiness, lack of confidence 
    • Behaviour – not participating in activities you normally enjoy, withdrawing from close family and friends, increased reliance on substances such as alcohol or other drugs, lack of concentration 
    • Thoughts  persistent negative thoughts such as “it’s my fault” or “nothing good ever happens to me”. 

    Physical wellbeing – increased fatigue, sleeping problems, change or loss of appetite, weight gain or loss – not associated with treatmentIf you have been experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of depression, and these persist for more than two weeks, it is important to contact your treating healthcare team of your GP to discuss your options 

  • Anxiety

    Everyone experiences feelings of anxiousness from time to time and it usually relates to a specific situation – such as a job interviewAnxiety, the condition, refers to frequent or persistent anxiousness that is not connected to a particular event or situation Anxiety impacts quality of life and day-to-day function of the person living with the condition. 

    Similarly, to depression, everyone experiences anxiety differently and there are several types of anxiety, such as panic disorder and social anxietyBeyond Blue outlines the common symptoms of anxiety as:  

    • Physical – panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy 
    • Psychological – excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking 
    • Behavioural – avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on, work, family or social life. 

    If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms of anxiety, it is important to discuss these with your treating healthcare team.    

The role of your treating healthcare team  

If you feel you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety, need extra support or just need to talk to someoneit is important to discuss your thoughts and feelings with treating healthcare team or your GP to find out about your options.