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Experience of anxiety among patients with severe COPD - A qualitative, in-depth interview study.

Journal article
Authors Susann Strang
Ann Ekberg-Jansson
Ingela Henoch
Published in Palliative & supportive care
Volume 12
Issue 6
Pages 465-472
ISSN 1478-9523
Publication year 2014
Published at Institute of Medicine
Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Pages 465-472
Language en
Keywords COPD, Anxiety, Existential, Palliative care, Death, Coping
Subject categories Nursing, Palliative medicine


Objectives: Anxiety often arises in conjunction with dyspnoea in patients with severe COPD. Considering the provoking symptomatology and the high mortality rate for COPD, it is reasonable to believe that these conditions trigger death-related and existential anxiety. Although anxiety causes considerable distress and reduces quality of life, people's experience of anxiety has been studied relatively little. The aim of this study was to explore severely ill COPD patients' experience of anxiety and their strategies to alleviate anxiety. Methods: This qualitative, in-depth interview study explored perceptions of anxiety and the alleviation strategies that are adopted. Interviews were analyzed using a thematic content analysis approach, involving interpretive coding and identification of themes. People suffering from COPD (stage III or IV) were recruited from a pulmonary outpatient clinic in the west of Sweden. Purposive sampling was used, and thirty-one (31) patients were included. Results: Most of the patients had experienced anxiety associated with COPD. Analyses revealed three major themes, death anxiety, life anxiety, and counterweights to anxiety. Death anxiety included fear of suffocation, awareness of death, fear of dying and separation anxiety. Life anxiety included fear of living and fear of the future. Counterweights to anxiety concerned coping with suffocation, avoiding strategy, and a sense of joy that defied their vulnerable situation. Significance of results: The majority of patients experienced anxiety, which limited their lives. Although the patients experienced both life anxiety and death anxiety, they were able to cope with the situation and find a defiant joy to some extent.

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