Helplessness, self blame and faith may impact on self management in COPD: a qualitative study

Prim Care Respir J. 2011 Sep;20(3):307-14, 1 p following 314. doi: 10.4104/pcrj.2011.00035.


Aims: To explore how patients with COPD experience helplessness.

Methods: In-depth interviews with 29 patients with moderate to very severe COPD. Data were analysed using a general inductive approach.

Results: All patients focused on acute symptoms and expressed feelings of helplessness in the management of their condition; little attention was paid to longer-term strategies. For one group of patients, mostly European, self blame appeared to intensify feelings of helplessness. For a second group, mostly Pacific, a focus on faith in God, Church and family provided a more positive affect and existed alongside helplessness.

Conclusions: Clinicians seeking to support patients to include longer term strategies in their self management will need to coach patients to experiences of short-term success, and be aware of the ways that patients experience and interpret their helplessness. Clinicians need to address self blame, and recognise patients' priorities of faith and family.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Helplessness, Learned*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Care*
  • Spirituality*