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Depression and Anxiety in People Living with Cystic Fibrosis

Living with cystic fibrosis (CF) can bring many challenges. While the physical symptoms of CF are often discussed, the toll that the condition takes on mental health is just as serious. Research shows that people with CF have higher rates of anxiety and depression than people without the condition.1

CF has many complications that can lead to depression and anxiety. It is a chronic, progressive disease. It has many social and financial implications for both people living with CF and their families or caregivers. Anxiety and depression can then further complicate these social and financial issues, which can make you feel like you are caught in a vicious cycle.

In our 2020 Cystic Fibrosis In America Survey, we explored how CF impacts mental health. More than 400 people with CF completed the survey and provided insight into how the condition affects their well-being.

Depression and anxiety are common in CF

Coping with a chronic condition like CF can be emotionally draining. Many of our survey respondents shared that along with CF, they also have mental health issues:

  • 36 percent have depression
  • 35 percent have anxiety or panic disorders

These numbers are significantly higher than reported rates of anxiety and depression in the general U.S. population. According to Johns Hopkins University, 9.5 percent of Americans experience depression, while 18 percent experience anxiety.

Factors that can increase depression and anxiety

CF can also cause financial strain, resentment, fears about the future, and isolation, all of which can intensify feelings of depression and anxiety:

  • 46 percent of respondents worry about how their CF affects their family and/or friends
  • 46 percent say they require emotional support
  • 43 percent are concerned about their future due to CF
  • 40 percent say it is hard for them to avoid comparing their life to that of their peers
  • 28 percent say CF stops them from doing things they want to do
  • 19 percent feel their finances prevent them from receiving the care they need

Studies on CF and mental health

The emotional impact of CF on adults and children with CF is well documented.

A 2021 meta-analysis study found that 26.2 percent of people with CF have anxiety and 12.6 percent of people with CF are experiencing clinical depression.1

This specific meta-analysis looked at studies about depression and anxiety in CF around the world. Worldwide, people with CF in Europe experience the highest levels of anxiety and depression. Italy has the highest rates of depression and anxiety in people with CF, with 45 percent. However, Germany had the lowest rates of anxiety (12.3) in people with CF, while Poland had the lowest rates of depression in people with CF (6 percent).1

Managing depression and anxiety when you have CF

If you or someone you know is impacted by CF, it is important to look out for the signs of anxiety and depression. Both anxiety and depression are associated with having a lower quality of life. Research shows they can also be linked to other mental health issues, such as addiction and even suicide. It is now recommended that doctors screen people with CF for anxiety and depression to help catch symptoms early and offer support.1,2

Talk to your care team if you are experiencing anxiety or depression with your CF. Your team will have resources to help you deal with anxiety and depression. They may recommend counseling, support groups, or even medicine. If you are not comfortable reaching out to your doctor, you may want to reach out to your insurance company to put you in touch with a counselor that is covered by your plan.

You're not alone

Talk with your care team, family, and friends about what you need. There is support to help you with the emotional impact of CF. You do not have to go through this alone.

The 2020 Cystic Fibrosis In America survey was conducted online from March through July 2020. The survey was completed by 404 people with cystic fibrosis.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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