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Therapy for Asthma
It’s not that the current treatments don’t work — they do. You follow your doctor’s recommendations about what to avoid. You pay attention to the triggers around you. You take your medication as prescribed, and you are never without your inhaler. It’s just that sometimes you think that there is something more that could be done or something more that should be done.
This thought is important because it is sparked by the notion that you don’t feel well some days. You feel frustrated that your asthma has continued to be a problem. You are angry that it is proving so difficult to manage. You are jealous of those that outgrew their childhood asthma or never had asthma in the first place.
Worst of all, you feel afraid. You fear that someday, not far from today, your symptoms will lead to very negative consequences. This fear causes more unwanted feelings like anxiety, sadness and stress.
So, what advice would you give someone that experiences this range of feelings? Would you tell them that this is a normal part of life? Would you tell them to ignore the feelings hoping they go away?
Hopefully, you would express concern regarding their status while encouraging them to seek new forms of treatment. When it comes to a low-risk method to help anxiety, sadness and stress, therapy is your answer.
However, not all therapy is equal. There are endless variations of therapeutic principles blended together in ways adopted by the particular therapist. Many are helpful, but others may not be able to address your symptoms in the way you desire. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is different from most other orientations because its efficacy has been widely studied for mental health and physical health concerns.
Any therapist, especially one using CBT, can provide great assistance to you if mental health symptoms are springing forth from your asthma. Here’s how:
Link Connections to Triggers
Therapists are experts at taking the bits of information you give them and building a complete picture of your situation, your symptoms and your experience. They will look at how the mental health impacts the physical health and how the physical health influences the mental health.
People with asthma are more prone to have issues with anxiety and enter into a cycle of panic. In many ways, this connection makes sense because an asthma attack is a frightening experience that triggers thoughts of danger and feelings of fear.
After the episode, there is a sense relief and gratitude that you have survived another attack. It does not take long, though, before the relief gives way to anticipation of the next attack. Then, the cycle repeats.
Once you identify factors that cause asthma attacks, you can develop ways to reduce triggers and manage your asthma. Read more about asthma management.
These anticipatory thoughts become anxious thoughts that are littered with questions like:
- When will the next attack be?
- How bad will it be?
- What if I can’t get to my inhaler?
- What if no one is around to help?
These questions may be realistic concerns, but they incite anxiety. Having a therapist will allow you the outlet to learn, discuss and process this pattern to have a better understanding of the factors at play. This information may not change your symptoms, but it will change the way you view them and set the stage for future interventions.
Build a Better Action Plan
With the information gained and understood from the connections linked, you can focus on building or rebuilding a more complete asthma action plan. These plans identify the appropriate course of action for when symptoms are present and when they escalate to dangerous levels. They discuss medications to take and situations to avoid. Typically, this is where most plans end.
During sessions with your therapist, you can build mental health aspects into your asthma action plan. This will be more inclusive of your entire wellbeing rather than separating you into mental and physical parts.
Perhaps periods of high anxiety will be more likely to lead to asthma symptoms, so increased safety will be required. Perhaps increased depression, stemming from feelings of frustration with physical health symptoms, calls for higher levels of higher levels of physical activity or a phone call made to a supportive friend for assistance.
Your therapist can provide the format for such a plan and offer helpful interventions to tackle the mental health symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress regardless of their source. Once completed, you can sure your plan with loved ones so that they can serves as reminders for future times when symptoms are problematic.
If working with the therapist identifies anxiety as part of the equation, relaxation techniques will be part of the treatment plan. Relaxation techniques refers to a broad grouping of therapeutic interventions that all work to lower the levels of anxiety and stress in the client while providing a sense of calm. These techniques can lower subjective reports of stress when done as a form of damage control in times of high anxiety, but they are even more effective when used as a preventative measure.
Imagine your anxiety is like a pot on the stove. When you reach the boiling point, you begin spilling over and having symptoms. In this situation, it is difficult to cool the liquid to stop the boiling.
On the other hand, if you maintain the temperature at a lower level, you will never have to worry about the rolling boiling. Using relaxation techniques as prevention serves to reduce the heat throughout the day to keep your stress low.
Whether it is something simple like deep breathing or complex like autogenic training, your therapist can teach you what techniques are right for you, how to use them, and when to use them. Even better is the notion that, once taught, you can practice the techniques without your therapist.
Therapists that use CBT primarily are focused on problem-solving and symptom reduction. In some situations, that may not be what you need. Other therapists, like those using person-centered therapy skills, will work to provide the support and attention you need. This type of therapy allows you to discuss your complaints in a safe, nonjudgmental environment with a therapist that is interested in you learning the remedies to your symptoms. This way, over time, you become your own therapist as someone that is able to identify the issues and intervene as needed.
The therapeutic benefits only begin here. They end only with the creativity of you and your therapist. The ways to improve yourself is only bound by you.