Anxiety and Depression - CF Buzz

Anxiety and depression are common

A 2013 study of 6,000 patients and 4,500 caregivers from nine different countries showed the rate of anxiety and depression in adolescents with CF was 25% higher than the average population, and 35% higher amongst caregivers.
Understanding the difference between the two, the triggers and how to manage the feelings will help you and/or the person with CF through the tough times.


What is anxiety versus what is depression?

Depression is characterised by feeling intensely sad or low for long periods, weeks, months or years.

Anxiety is when anxious feelings (that are a common response to stressful situation) last for prolonged periods of time and exist without any particular reason or cause. It is the most common mental health condition in Australia.


Triggers of anxiety and depression related to cystic fibrosis


A new CF related diagnosis

The diagnosis of CF in your child can be a traumatic event and you can read more on the New Diagnosis page.

  • Health changes and/or deterioration
  • New diagnosis e.g. CF Related Diabetes (CFRD), continence issues, low lung function
  • Difficulty maintaining normal activities such as work and relationships
  • Poor body image
  • Lung transplant and/or fear of death



  • Needle phobia and fear of invasive surgery
  • Bad news e.g. new bug, lowered lung function
  • Haemoptysis (coughing up of blood from a source below the glottis) or pneumothorax (the presence of air or gas in the cavity between the lung and the chest wall) in past 6 months.


How to overcome anxiety and depression

You can overcome your anxiety and depression, and there is plenty of help available to you along the way. BeyondBlue is a good first stop, and your GP can help you find professional help.

That’s not to say you will be cured, they may return, but you will be better equipped to manage the symptoms by then. Admitting that your feelings are more than just stress and sadness is the best first step. And it’s probably fair to say that everyone with CF will at some time feel anxious and/or depressed.

Exercise, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, relaxing and participating in fun activities are good ways to help chronic stress. So are mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been recommended by a number of people with CF, as well others who suffer from chronic pain, addiction, anxiety and depression. Lots has been written about the benefits of mindfulness and programs are not offered in hospitals and community centres around Australia.

It’s been proven that the structure of the brain can change with focused mindfulness practice; the areas of the brain associated with empathy, emotions and compassion grow, while areas involved with anxiety and stress shrink. Therefore it’s believed mindfulness helps foster emotional balance and self-compassion in stressful times.


What happens if anxiety and/or depression related to CF is left untreated?

  • Poor adherence to treatments (less than 50% for adolescents and young adults).
  • Reduction in parents’ ability to routinely administer medication and other treatment to their children.
  • Reduction in children’s ability to cope; Research shows a direct correlation between parental anxiety and depression and child’s ability to cope.
  • Inability to understand treatment regime.
  • Poor relationships
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Lack of engagement in the workforce
  • Low motivation
  • Risky behaviour
  • Increased hospitalisations and healthcare costs.
  • Inability to stay on track with treatment regimens and consequently worse health outcomes; research indicates a direct correlation between good mental health and adherence to treatment.

Resources for dealing with anxiety and depression


Excellent resource for understanding anxiety and depression. They also have a 24/7 support phone line: 1300 22 46 36 and can help you through tough times.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy®
Includes workbooks, guided meditations and community based programs.

TEDx Talks®
Carly-Jay is an adult with CF from Queensland talks about how she manages extreme stress.

Smiling Mind®
Free web and app based guided meditations for all ages.

Sick and happy®
“Sick and happy” includes great articles on developing emotional resilience.



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