What Is Shortness Of Breath
It can be terrifying, especially when you dont know why you feel short of breath.
Under normal circumstances, the brain subconsciously controls your breathing based on your level of activity and whether you are talking, eating, resting, etc.
However, one unique thing about breathing is that you can also consciously control it. For example, you can hold your breath while jumping into water or hold that high note while singing in the shower.
When you feel short of breath, sometimes the reason is obvious for example, when you are exercising and exerting a lot of energy, or if youre at a higher than normal altitude.
Other times, however, the cause may not be as clear.
Shortness Of Breath Vs Hyperventilating
Shortness of breath, also referred to as dyspnea, and hyperventilation, also known as overbreathing, are intimately connected to each other. When you feel shortness of breath, you may breathe faster, which can lead to hyperventilationand, in turn, hyperventilation can trigger or worsen shortness of breath. Hyperventilation:
- Can intensify feelings of panic, stress, and anxiety
- Can decrease the carbon dioxide in your blood
- Can lead to faintness, nausea, numbness or tingling, and dry mouth
- Can lead to feeling restricted and tight in your chest
- Can lead to feeling confused and out of it
- Can disrupt your sleep
How Can I Ease My Anxiety Symptoms In The Moment
There are tons of expert-approved ways to relieve anxiety about coronavirus, and what works best will be completely unique to youfrom making time for a daily walk to participating in hobbies you enjoy. But, if you suddenly feel your heart rate spike or breathing accelerate, Saltz recommends doing anything you can to relax your body, including a few grounding exercises:
If you try these techniques and feel your symptoms easing up, thats a good indicator youre dealing with anxiety. From there, consider making a few changes in your daily routine. A big one: Limit how much news you read or watch, suggests psychologist Paul Coleman, Psy.D., author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces. Its important to stay informed, but scrolling all day does nothing good for your headspace. Instead, spend some time on ideas, images, words, or music that create calmness and peace, he says.
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Why Do I Feel Like Taking Deep Breaths So Often
Excessive sighing may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Examples can include increased stress levels, uncontrolled anxiety or depression, or a respiratory condition. If you’ve noticed an increase in sighing that occurs along with shortness of breath or symptoms of anxiety or depression, see your doctor.
Why Panic Attacks Cause Shortness Of Breath
Armeen Poor, MD, is a board-certified pulmonologist and intensivist. He specializes in pulmonary health, critical care, and sleep medicine.
During a panic attack, the fight-or-flight response is activated, which can lead to an intense cascade of uncomfortable symptoms, including shortness of breath and hyperventilating. Whether you have had a single panic attack or have been diagnosed with panic disorder, experiencing shortness of breath can feel incredibly unsettling and frightening. Better understanding shortness of breath and its link to panic attacks may help you or a loved one find appropriate resources, support, and strategies that aim to reduce and/or eliminate symptoms.
When Is Shortness Of Breath Serious
If shortness of breath is accompanied by other symptoms like pain or discomfort, tightness in the chest, lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting, its important to seek medical attention immediately.
You should also talk with a doctor if you have experienced shortness of breath for over 1 month or if other symptoms like persistent coughing or swollen ankles are present, as it could be a sign of a more serious condition.
What Anxiety Does To Our Breathing
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in Europe, affecting about 25 million people across the region.
Whereas anxiety is a normal reaction to difficult times, enabling us to take precautions, people with disorders can have high levels of dread that come out of nowhere and affect their daily life.
Having an anxiety disorder is when anxiety levels are both elevated and are causing problems, said Dr Olivia Faull, a neuroscientist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. It can stop from doing things that they would like to do or things that they need to do like going out to the shops or visiting friends.
Although existing treatments can help, they arent ideal for everyone. Drugs such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors can alleviate symptoms but may also be accompanied by negative side effects. Exercise is recommended since it can activate the frontal part of the brain which helps control our reactions to real or imagined threats. But its not appropriate for people with certain types of anxiety. It might be far too much for someone who has severe social anxiety, said Dr Faull. They don’t want to go to an exercise class or have a personal trainer.
New treatments for anxiety are therefore needed and could be developed using a new approach. Dr Faull and other researchers are now investigating the link between anxiety and our ability to perceive whats going on inside our body, called interoception.
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How To Get Rid Of The Feeling Out Of Breath Anxiety Symptoms
When feeling out of breath is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, the feeling out of breath anxiety symptom should subside.
Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldnt be a cause for concern.
When the shortness of breath anxiety symptom is caused by hyperstimulation, it can take a lot longer for the body to recover, and to the point where this feeling out of breath symptom subsides.
Nevertheless, when the body has recovered from hyperstimulation, this anxiety symptom will subside. Therefore, anxiety-caused shortness of breath neednt be a cause for concern.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest, getting regular light to moderate exercise, getting good sleep, and not worrying about this anxiety symptom.
When To Phone A Doctor
You should phone your GP immediately if you have sudden unexpected shortness of breath, as there may be a problem with your airways or heart.
Your GP will assess you over the phone, and may either visit you at home or admit you to hospital. If your shortness of breath is mild or the result of anxiety, you may be asked to come to the surgery rather than a home visit.
If you’ve struggled with your breathing for a while, don’t ignore it. See your GP as it’s likely you have a long-term condition, such as obesity, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , which needs to be managed properly.
Your doctor may ask you some questions, such as:
- Did the breathlessness come on suddenly or gradually?
- Did anything trigger it, such as exercise?
- How bad is it? Does it only happen when you’ve been active, or when you’re not doing anything?
- Is there any pain when you breathe?
- Do you have a cough?
- Do certain positions make it worse for example, are you unable to lie down?
Feeling like you can’t get enough air can be terrifying, but doctors are well trained in managing this. You may be given extra oxygen to breathe if this is needed.
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Can Belly Fat Affect Breathing
Extra fat on your neck or chest or across your abdomen can make it difficult to breathe deeply and may produce hormones that affect your body’s breathing patterns. You may also have a problem with the way your brain controls your breathing. Most people who have obesity hypoventilation syndrome also have sleep apnea.
When To Talk To Your Doctor
Experiencing shortness of breath or hyperventilating during a panic attack can be terrifying. Because panic attacks and panic disorder can be associated with other underlying diseases or disorders, it’s important to speak with your doctor so they can identify what is causing your shortness of breath.
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How Can We Stop This Symptom
As this is to do with the cardiovascular and respiratory system the key is to take deep, full breaths in a controlled way. By getting our oxygen and carbon dioxide levels back in whack our heart rate will slow and the fight, flight, or freeze response in our caveman brain should begin to cease.
This can be a very scary symptom to experience so its important to reassure yourself that you are in control and can calm your system back down. These panic related symptoms tend to last on average about 10 minutes, so you can get through it. Just try and ground yourself, focus on your breathing and whats immediately around you, and your breathing should slow.
Of course, this helps us to stop the symptoms in action, but in order to prevent the symptoms occurring, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT , mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If youre unsure, please contact your GP for more information.
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Other Causes Of Shortness Of Breath
If youre experiencing shortness of breath, you might worry that something else is going on. There are many health issues that can cause difficulty breathing, including :
The most important factors in figuring out whats causing shortness of breath are whether you have an underlying medical condition or if youve been ill recently. If you have concerns, a healthcare professional can do an evaluation to help determine the source.
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When It Doubt See A Doctor
Before we begin, those that struggle with shortness of breath should always consider first seeing a doctor. Anxiety is a frequent cause of this condition, but there are several health issues, unrelated to anxiety, that can cause shortness of breath. These include common conditions like asthma and allergies, as well as other conditions that may affect your lungs and heart
Still, even when shortness of breath is originally caused by a health condition, it can still lead to anxiety. The experience of breathlessness can trigger worrying thoughts about your health, such as Im going to pass out. This can lead to developing greater anxiety which, in turn, can actually cause symptoms of hyperventilation and trouble breathing to increase, causing further discomfort. .
Shortness Of Breath And Other Physical Sensations
Unfortunately for many people, shortness of breath is often accompanied by other unpleasant bodily experiences. Hyperventilation and anxiety, can lead to other issues like chest pain, dizziness, and lightheadedness. These are a side-effects of increased carbon dioxide in the blood.
These symptoms usually reduce as normal breathing resumes. Yet the harmless but uncomfortable sensations are often misinterpreted as signs of serious illness. This can become a further trigger for anxiety, leading to even worse breathing difficulty.
If you have anxiety, it’s also possible to have shortness of breath even when you’re not consciously feeling anxious. That’s because over time anxiety can start to alter the way you breathe. This can become a habit, and cause hyperventilation without any triggers. Part of overcoming shortness of breath may require re-learning how to breathe correctly.
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Coping With Shortness Of Breath From Anxiety
Those that are experiencing severe shortness of breath may still want to see a doctor. Shortness of breath is a common effect of anxiety, but only a medical professional can give you an accurate diagnosis. For those whose shortness of breath is caused by anxiety, you’ll need to take two approaches:
- Short term coping.
- Long term coping.
In the short term, you’ll need to recognise that you may be hyperventilating and try to consciously avoid the temptation to over-breathe. During an panic attack, you may simply need to wait it out – they generally peak after 10 minutes and subside soon after. Traditionally breathing into a paper bag was suggested, but there are other more successful ways that you can control your breathing. You can try the following:
Shortness of breath, when related to anxiety, will go away once your breathing returns to a normal rate. If you can control overcompensating by trying to get too much air, you should be able to get your breathing to feel natural again.
What Can You Do When You Feel Short Of Breath
Mindful breathing may help you return to your typical breathing pattern during a panic attack or ground yourself afterwards. Follow these basic guidelines:
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How Breathing Can Calm Us
We often try to tame anxiety by changing our thoughtsquestioning the worst-case scenarios in our heads, interrupting rumination with some kind of distraction, or going to therapy.
But breathing offers a different approach, bypassing the complexities of the mind and targeting the body directly. Instead of trying to think yourself out of feeling anxious, you can do something concretebreathe slow or fast, in a particular rhythm, or through a nostriland sometimes find immediate relief.
In a 2017 study, highly anxious people were assigned to take a course in diaphragmatic breathing relaxation. They practiced twice a day at home. Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, involves breathing deeply into the abdomen rather than taking shallow breaths into the chest. After eight weeks, they reported feeling less anxious compared to a group that didnt receive the training. They also showed physical signs of reduced anxiety: lower heart rate, slower breathing, and lower skin conductivity.
So, a regular breathing practice might help you feel calmer in your everyday life. But other studies suggest that focusing on your breathing in moments of acute stress could also be useful.
These benefits felt profound to the participants in a small, 12-week yoga breathing class in the United Kingdom. According to researchers from the University of Southampton:
Wheezing And Anxiety Disorders
Wheezing is caused by constricted airways. When the airway closes, it creates a high pitched whistle like sound, and this is often accompanied by trouble breathing and breathlessness more generally. There are several conditions that are either caused by anxiety or triggered by anxiety that can lead to wheezing. The causes include:
- Hyperventilation Hyperventilation is one of the causes of wheezing that is directly related to anxiety. Hyperventilation is the act of breathing too quickly or inefficiently, in a way that causes your body to expel too much carbon dioxide. Interestingly, it can make you feel as though you’re not getting enough oxygen, when in fact the opposite is true. Without enough carbon dioxide, your airways and blood vessels constrict, causing breathing trouble and possible wheezing.
- Asthma Asthma isn’t caused by anxiety, but many studies have shown that those with asthma are more likely to experience anxiety-related symptoms. In theory, this means that when you have anxiety you’re more likely to have asthma, which means you’re more likely to experience wheezing.
- GERD Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder, also known as “acid reflux,” is similar. Acid reflux isn’t a disorder caused by anxiety, but there is a considerable amount of evidence that anxiety can make GERD worse, which in turn means that you’re more likely to wheeze.
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How To Deal With Shortness Of Breath When Stressed
Stress and shortness of breath that accompany it can not be prevented, but you can try to relieve it with simple relaxation techniques. When stress starts to strike, find a quiet place to relax yourself.
Then, follow the steps as follows:
Tighten your body muscles, then let it relax again.
Imagine your muscles relax slowly and your body begins to feel heavy.
Clear your mind of all thoughts.
Let your body relax more and more.
Try to feel the absence of noise around you.
Once the relaxation time is almost over, regain your awareness by moving your hands and feet. Stretch your body, then move back as usual.
There are many ways you can do if you experience difficulty breathing due to stress suddenly. As stated earlier, when you are stressed you will start breathing through the chest. To overcome this, you need to consciously regulate your breathing and do deep breathing exercise.
Expand this exercise by counting six to 10 times for 10 minutes. This will reduce the speed of your heart rate by 15 to 20 beats per minute. And at the same time, it will reduce your breathing rate by 20 to 30 percent. If you have time, continue this breathing exercise for 20 minutes or more in one day.