IPF and Emotional Outbursts: Why Are They Happening?

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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This is another column in which I hope others living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) will have some helpful tips for me.

I don’t know if it is my diagnosis or the medications, or maybe a combination of the two. Today, I became really aware of how quickly I lose my temper and become emotional. I don’t lose my temper at someone, it comes in the form of frustration. In the moment, it feels like my world is crashing down on me. Once I have some time to reflect and calm down, my thoughts become a little clearer. Sometimes I can calm myself down in a matter of minutes. Other times it takes hours for me to realize that I may have overreacted. Do any of you also have this experience? Is it the steroids?

Let me further explain.

This has been building for a while. Something happens and my first reaction is fury. Again, I am thankful that my initial reaction is not external, but rather internal, and the only thing that others might see during one of these reactions is tears. I do not remember ever reacting so intensely to something before I was diagnosed with IPF.

Today, when picking up medications, I looked for capsules in the 30-pack instead of the 100-capsule package. When the pharmacist told me they didn’t carry the smaller packs, I just looked at her and started to sob. And while that was the only external reaction, internally I was furious and swearing at her, the store, and the fact that I would have to go to another pharmacy. I don’t know why I reacted this way because going to the store down the road was not really a big deal. I had time to do what I needed this afternoon.

Another example today was when I found out that something in my car that was serviced a month ago needs repair again. Initially, I lost my temper. In front of the service provider who told me this, I started to cry and get really angry at the company. Thankfully, the gentleman understood because he knew I wasn’t angry with him.

When I calmed down a few minutes later, I called the company and they were happy to replace the part. They were very apologetic. I was polite on the phone, as they were with me, so in hindsight, it really wasn’t worth getting upset over. But this is the type of experience I have had with most things lately.

If I hear something has gone wrong, or if I need something, I initially fly off the handle internally and realize later that it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought. I don’t know why that is and I really don’t like it. If anyone has any suggestions, or thoughts on why this is happening, I’d certainly appreciate hearing them.

When I spent some time this afternoon consciously reflecting on why I am reacting this way, I could only think of a couple of reasons. These include:

1. My reaction is based on the physical energy I will have to exert going to another store or running another errand. Maybe somehow the physical fatigue I am feeling due to being chronically under-oxygenated is the reason for my emotional outbursts. Running errands is difficult enough for me, but having to double the number of stops I have to make because a store doesn’t have something I need is frustrating. The problem is that it isn’t the store’s or employee’s fault that running errands is difficult for me. So they don’t deserve my emotional response.

2. My reaction is based on yet another thing happening that feels out of my control. There is so much in my life right now that feels unstable and unknown, and perhaps when I go after something I know that I want or need and it isn’t there, it provokes another wave of feeling out of control that sends me into an emotional outburst.

For those of you thinking it would probably be a good idea to talk to a professional about this, rest assured, I am doing this. I’m also aware that likely this is just part of coping with a life-threatening disease while being on steroids. However, it really didn’t feel good when it happened today, and I thought writing about it might be helpful for me to seek ideas from others or to connect with others who may also be having this experience.

Please be in touch if you have any suggestions on how I can manage these outbursts. In the meantime, I am going to give myself a little grace and work harder at managing my initial reaction to certain things.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Lea avatar


Oh my, YES! But I only have a diagnosis of ILD, of which IPF is a very specific subcategory.

I think of it as the emotional balloon filling to capacity and then popping to disperse feelings safely away from me. I started noting it about the age of 35.

I hope others respond to this, because I want to hear their stories.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Me too Lea, thank you for sharing. I am eager to hear from others. I am 29, and feel like I really shouldn't be having the internal (and sometimes external) outbursts that I do. It is really hard to navigate....

Jean M avatar

Jean M

Beautiful written article! You did exactly what DOES help, which is share with others who COMPLETELY understand! I'm older, and before the internet everything was a constant nightmare with severe lung damage. So frightening. Especially temperature extremes. But I survived, so there's an element of gratitude for my life and all of God's gifts and blessings. I completely KNOW this frustration!!! Your vulnerability is a gift and you have much to offer. Keep doing the best you can and trust there are very kind people, as you already wrote of. Someday, you will also be that deeply caring person to someone else, and it will mean so much to them! I go into what I call "urgent restoration mode" when things like this happen; I buy some flowers, order or light a beeswax candle (purifying and healthy). A favorite tip - I order Jasmine/ jojoba oil ($9-$15) and apply a few drops on my wrist throughout the day. I swear it works wonders! Take good care of yourself, your life is a Masterpiece and so are YOU!

Jerry avatar


Thank you for this honest message.

I am much older than you; and have lived a blessed life filled with love and caring.

I know the feeling you describe though. I've always been noted for being a patient caring person; yet with the IPF experience, there are instances where out of no where I find myself exploading with momentary rage.

Usually it's over very incidental issues , but things that seem to involve not being able to control things that I always did myself easily, but find myself restrained by all the tubing, deadlines for taking pills and such. I'm instantly ashamed of myself. It's not me. I'm a lover, not a fighter , and my focus is on being greatful for every day despite these problems.

What is worse is that my temporary explosions are often at my dear wife and help mate who definitely doesn't deserve my anger reactions. I'm quick to say " I'm sorry" but that nasty genie has already sprung.

In contemplating my personal problem I believe the root has to do with control. I've been blessed to lead groups of professional at high levels and in stress situations.

But now, when I say "go left" and she goes right ... and I repeat it several times to no result, out comes that nasty genie again ... and I'm sorely ashsamed! She knows I love her, and that she's the last person I should lash out at; but it's done... to my shame.

We talk about it openly and directly at our morning devotional time; I know she underdstands but I'm so ashamed and sorry.

I've never been like this.

Tom Nicholas avatar

Tom Nicholas

Charlene, for sure this is not just a "female" thing! Today, I was very frustrated and angry with my wife when she didn't deserve it. I was probably more frustrated with the situation but I took it out and blamed it on her. i apologised, but still feel bad about it. I find every once in while something really "sets me off". It is not okay to do this.I'm glad others may fly off the handle, and I'm just going to try and do a better job of recognizing when this is about to happen and before it does, gather my wits and thoughts together to calm down. You are not alone!

Ron Cade avatar

Ron Cade

Hang in there, you all with outbursts problems. I'm an old guy. I grew up with temper issues. There is no need for me to go into why I believe I had them. The solution for me is an intellectual one.
•What good does it do to lose it? Nothing good is usually the answer. I recall as a small child, about 7 or 8 years old, I was bare foot running around the yard as usual when I stepped on something and cut my big toe. The blood came freely and I screamed and started bawling, heading for the house. Then it dawned on me: no one was hearing me so why am I being so vocal. That's when I quit making a fuss. To this day I don't make a fuss or lose it. It does no good.

• Don't we learn to control our temper, according to who we go off on? "We only hurt the ones we love". Sound familiar? There's no threat to us when we attack some people but we have the will and discipline to not attack our boss or our security blankets if you will. Kick a wall or a cement block. Break a foot. That helps, huh? Then another problem and would you really then kick yourself.

•My sins are many but they have been forgiven by Jesus, I do believe. They do not bother me because I believe that strongly. Not so with my regrets. Regrets to me are the stupid things I've done like making bad decisions. Or procrastinating or not keeping my word. That is painful, not keeping my word. Therefore the wiser thing to do is to not make a promise because you may not be able to keep it.

•Most of us do not want to husrt others. Self discipline is a valuable trait. I look at it as " you gotta do what you gotta do". Controlling our temper is one of those things that benefits everyone. The smart thing o do is do not lose your temper with someone you depend on. There is a Scripture in my Plain English Version Bible, Colossians 3:13 which says to put up with one another. Other good advice in close by verses. Later. Keep on keeping on. I'm sure there is more help in Proverbs. Philippians teaches us what to think about in 4:8. Try it. Cheers!


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