Depression and Anxiety

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Everyone feels sad, down or worried at some point. Feeling this way is a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles or stress. And dealing with CF can be stressful.

But if these feelings become more than just a “bad mood” — if they last a long time, get in the way of your daily life and sleep or if they just seem too much to handle — then it’s time to ask for help.


Depression is more than just feeling sad. It may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Feeling tired all the time and having low energy
  • Feeling guilty, worthless and/or helpless
  • Feeling hopeless and/or negative
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling irritable
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyable
  • Changes in eating (overeating or loss of appetite)
  • Constant aches or pains, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease up
  • Constant sad or anxious feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide and/or suicide attempts
  • People with depression do not all have the same symptoms. Some people may experience all of the above symptoms while others may only have a few of the symptoms.

Thoughts about Suicide

Sometimes depression or anxiety can be too much to handle and you might start thinking about suicide.

These thoughts are serious and you need to discuss them with your health care provider:

  • It’s a signal you should ask for help. Thinking about suicide may mean you have more pain and sadness than you can cope with and you need help. So ask for help. You don’t need to feel this way.
  • Talk it out with a person you trust. Talk about your feelings and thoughts. Voicing concerns and getting support can help you find solutions. Call a trusted friend, family member, doctor or therapist — or a member of your CF care team.
  • Ask someone to help you set up a plan to keep yourself safe. Consider making a contract with your doctor or therapist. Ask someone to help remove any dangerous objects or weapons from your home. Ask someone to take care of your medicines and give them to you one day at a time.
  • If you do not know who to turn to: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). These toll-free crisis hotlines offer 24-hour suicide prevention and support. Your call is free and confidential.

We all have a lot of things to worry about in life. Anxiety is more than just being worried about regular stuff. At times, your worry may get in the way of doing things you normally would do or you may experience panic symptoms that stop you from doing your normal activities.

Symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Too much worry — most of the time for at least 6 months
  • Finding it difficult to control the worry
  • Feeling restless
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances

Sometimes anxiety can cause a panic attack. A panic attack is an event of extreme fear or discomfort that lasts more than 10 minutes and may include these symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Feeling like you are choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Fear of losing control, going crazy or dying
  • Numbness
  • Chills or hot flashes

Depression, Anxiety and CF

Depression and anxiety are common in CF and can disrupt your life. People with a chronic illness are more likely to have depression and anxiety than people without a chronic illness. In turn, depression and anxiety can then make it even harder to care for CF.

With CF, you have a lot of things to handle — from CF treatments and clinic appointments to eating the right foods and getting exercise. On top of these you might have concerns about your future. So it’s not surprising that research has shown that having any chronic illness puts people at higher risk for depression and anxiety.

Teenagers and Young Adults Are More at Risk

Certain people are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety. Teenagers and young adults are most at risk for having symptoms of depression and anxiety compared with younger children (under the age of 12) or adults over the age of 30. Women are more likely to feel depressed or anxious than men.

Depression and Anxiety Can Affect Your Health and Lower Your Quality of Life

Your health can be affected if you are depressed or anxious. Depression can make it harder to do CF treatments.

People who are depressed sometimes do not have the energy or motivation to take care of themselves. They have a hard time doing such things as following a healthy diet, exercising and managing their disease.

In addition, people who are depressed or anxious may have trouble focusing and remembering to do their treatments. Finally, depressed people may feel hopeless and think that doing their treatments will not help and they may stop doing them.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety can also lower your quality of life. A study showed that adults with CF who had moderate or severe lung disease and more symptoms of depression reported worse quality of life than those with moderate or severe lung disease and no symptoms of depression. In other words, depression can make living with CF a lot harder to handle.

You can read more about the association between depression, lung function and health-related quality of life among adults with CF in an article by Riekert KA, Bartlett SJ, Boyle MP, Krishnan JA, Rand CS. Chest. 2007. 132:231-237.