Coping with your Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

 I wrote this article a while ago for the PPD newsletter and I wanted to include it in the blog in hopes of making it more visible.  Because my background is in Social Work, it is my mission to help drivers with their coping and adjustment issues to CPAP treatment.

For some of you, the benefits of treatment are instant and in those cases, coping and adjusting to sleep apnea is a fairly easy and welcome cure to a lifelong struggle with undiagnosed sleep apnea.  However, for others, the journey is more difficult and cumbersome. (Especially when the benefits of CPAP treatment are not immediately apparent).

In many instances, a diagnosis of sleep apnea is met with an array of emotions. These emotions are variable and are part of the predictable stages that accompany major life changing events.  They parallel the stages of grief that were first identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and lastly Acceptance. Initially, Kubler-Ross identified these stages in the realm of terminal illness, but these stages have also been useful in understanding a person’s normal reactions to other major life changing events. People who experience the adjustment stages do so on their own timeline and in no specific order.  In other words, people react and respond differently to these events.

One thing is clear: if you don’t believe you have a problem, then it is nearly impossible to make the necessary lifestyle changes to adopt the treatment to address and treat the problem-i.e. sleep apnea.  For many, the journey begins at this point- Denial. A “denial” statement might look like this: “I’m sure I don’t have sleep apnea because I don’t have problems sleeping.”  It is important to understand your diagnosis and discuss your concerns with your physician/Healthcare provider and work through these issues early on after a diagnosis is first made.

After one receives a diagnosis, the emotional journey can take several different directions.  For some, the realization that they have a chronic condition may lead to feelings of anger, loss, fear or resentment.  Statements such as: “Why me”? or “This is a scam”! are not all that uncommon at the beginning of treatment.

For others there may be an initial discomfort with the new diagnosis and treatment which improves slowly over time as one learns more about the diagnosis and how treatment can positively add to their life.  There also may be moments of Bargaining such as, “If I lose weight will I still need CPAP treatment”?  Depression may be part of the process and for some it might feel like loss or helplessness.

It is important for you to know that coping and adjusting to any diagnosis (especially sleep apnea) is a process which can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. It has its ups and downs and the journey is not always linear. Once you reach the “acceptance” stage, you could potentially have cycled through other stages a few times before finally moving into accepting your diagnosis and treatment. This doesn’t mean that once you reach the acceptance stage everything is perfect, In fact, you may continue to have other emotions that arise from time to time.  In time, these emotions should diminish with the hope that you are 100% committed to your CPAP treatment and realize how important this treatment is to your life.

Change is an individualized process and can take many different forms.  It is clear that when people feel understood, the adjustment process is more likely to succeed for the long term.  Our goal here at PPD is to help drivers and provide them with the support, information and education to make their CPAP treatment a success!

Best wishes,

Katia LaManna, LCSW



Please share with us some of your own stories about how you overcame or are currently overcoming issues related to CPAP treatment….they just may inspire someone who is struggling with their new diagnosis and treatment….