Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy reduces breathing difficulty Psychological factors can contribute to breathing difficulty. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works to change unhelpful thinking and behavior by helping individuals take a more open and mindful approach toward their breathing problem. It has been effective for mood disorders, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and depression. The diagram below shows how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors influence each other. The triangle in the middle represents cognitive behavioral therapy – all core beliefs can be summed up by self, others, and future.  
Diagram shows emotions, thoughts, and behaviors influence each other.

Diagram shows emotions, thoughts, and behaviors influence each other.

In the June 2015 issue of Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, Livermore and colleagues from Sydney, Australia, evaluated the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on increased breathing difficulty in those with COPD. 18 subjects received four sessions of CBT and 13 subjects received routine care for their COPD. Before therapy started and 6 months later, all subjects breathed through a resistance system in the laboratory that made it harder to breathe. Those who were treated with CBT reported less breathing difficulty (by 17%) compared to before therapy, while there was no change in those who had routine care. These results suggest that this “mindful” therapy may help you breathe easier. You may wish to  read and learn more about this approach and/or ask your doctor whether a therapist with experience in CBT is available where you live.  

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.