What Is Shortness Of Breath
Imagine inhaling deeply, but not having enough air to breathe in. The result of this is an uncomfortable feeling characterized by laborious breathing or a choking sensation. Your chest might become tight, and your breaths might go faster than usual. Because your body needs more air, you start to gasp or hyperventilate. This is what shortness of breath looks like.
This experience is never pleasant. Seeing a doctor should be a priority when this occurs. As we have said, although anxiety is a likely culprit, you have to rule out other health problems first. Whatever the cause, this is concerning so intentionally taking the right steps towards healing is essential.
What Is The Outlook For A Tight Chest
Chest tightness isnt a symptom to take lightly. If you experience chest tightness with other concerning symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Chest tightness could be a symptom of a serious health condition, like a heart attack.
If your chest tightness is the result of anxiety, you should discuss the symptoms with your doctor. Anxiety should be treated early to keep it from getting worse. Your doctor can help you implement a plan thatll reduce anxiety and chest tightness. This may include lifestyle adjustments that help you manage the anxiety from home.
When To Speak With A Doctor
While shortness of breath from anxiety is uncomfortable, its usually harmless. When you no longer feel threatened, your breathing should return back to its usual depth and rhythm.
If your anxiety symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life, you may find it helpful to reach out to a mental health professional. They will be able to:
- evaluate your symptoms
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Other Conditions That Cause Shortness Of Breath
Shortness of breath and other symptoms of anxiety can mimic other conditions. Its a good idea to monitor your symptoms and get a checkup with your doctor to rule out any other conditions.
Getting a physical to ensure you dont have any other issues can also alleviate some of your anxiety. For instance, in a panic attack, many people believe theyre having a heart attack. This fear only increases their panic.
Other causes of shortness of breath include:
When Should I Call My Doctor About Shortness Of Breath
If you have a condition that means you might be feeling short of breath often, make sure to follow the suggestions of your healthcare provider about paying attention to your health every day. This might include doing peak flow testing in COPD and asthma or weighing yourself every day to make sure you are not retaining water.
- Blue fingers or lips.
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Where Exactly To Massage
The main muscles of respiration are:
And heres one more minor respiratory muscle in the low back that could be clinically significant:
- The quadratus lumborum is a sheet of muscle spanning from the pelvis to the lower rib. A crampy quadratus lumborum can pull down on the lower rib like an action hero clinging to the landing skid of a helicopter. It may painfully resist elevation of the rib cage during inhalation and/or hurt when contracting to pull it down during exhalation. Read more about quadratus lumborum massage.
It is also well worthwhile to massage other muscles throughout the neck, shoulders, and chest. Even the upper back! Soothing them may indirectly help the actual respiration muscles. And even if they dont control breathing themselves, they often produce sensations that feel related to breathing in a way that is hard to describe. Feeling stiff in the upper back often has a lot of sensory overlap with shortness of breath they are similar and probably related sensations.
For instance, its startling how much trigger points between the shoulder blades can feel related to breathing . After professional massage of this area, patients often say something like, I feel like I can breathe again! Even if they didnt feel short of breath to begin with!
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive inflammation of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. It is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases and/or dust particles, most often cigarette smoke.
Symptoms may take years to develop. They include a chronic cough with mucus , wheezing, chest tightness, fatigue, constant colds, swollen ankles, and cyanosis Depression is often a factor due to reduced quality of life.
Treatment is important because there is a greater risk of heart disease and lung cancer in COPD patients. Though the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed to reduce risks and allow good quality of life.
COPD is commonly misdiagnosed and so careful testing is done. Diagnosis is made through patient history physical examination lung function tests blood tests and chest x-ray or CT scan.
Treatment involves quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to other lung irritants use of inhalers to ease symptoms steroids lung therapies and getting influenza and pneumonia vaccines as recommended.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, cough and dyspnea related to smoking, cough, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping
Symptoms that always occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease : cough and dyspnea related to smoking
Symptoms that never occur with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease : rectal bleeding
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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What Causes Shortness Of Breath
With anxiety it comes down to your fight-or-flight response, which is essentially a primitive biological reaction to danger, Michael McKee, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University, tells SELF. When your body thinks you might be in peril , your sympathetic nervous system kickstarts a physiological response, theoretically so you can better protect yourself. As McKee explains, this can cause a cascade of effects like a racing heart and quicker breathing. This reaction is thought to have helped our ancestors be able to run away from or attack a threat, and its what makes some of us who deal with anxiety feel winded even now.
The scientific term for anxiety-related shortness of breath is psychogenic dyspnea,Richard Castriotta, M.D., pulmonary critical care specialist at Keck Medicine of USC, tells SELF. Sometimes it can happen because of hyperventilation, which means youre breathing too quickly. This is also known as overbreathing.
The reason you cant get enough air in is that youre already breathing at your max, and therefore there isnt room to increase the breathing, Dr. Castriotta says. Thats why you have that sensation. How ironic that breathing too much can make it feel like we arent getting enough air.
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. .
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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.
How Does Shortness Of Breath Feel Like
If you had the feeling where you seem to take a deep breath but there is really not enough air to go into your lungs where it becomes very difficult to breathe normally, or you feel like you are about to choke, you may be experiencing shortness of breath.
Symptoms you could identify when having shortness of breath include:
- Tightness in your chest
- Breathing faster than normal gasping for air
- Feeling like you need more oxygen
The first time this happens to you, it can make you feel confused and disoriented.
In addition, you could feel as it happened out of the blue or if you pay attention to the before and after, you could find a probable cause.
For instance, you may feel shortness of breath after exercising, which doesnt necessarily mean it is bad since it could be due to extra limiting yourself with a certain routine or exercise.
Subsequently, it is important to pay attention to when, how, why it happens.
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Can Anxiety Cause Constant Shortness Of Breath
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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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Feeling Short Of Breath How Anxiety Can Trick You Into Thinking You Have Covid
PHOENIX With so much uncertainty, it’s natural to feel some stress. But when we’re all trying to avoid a virus that attacks the respiratory system, that tightness in your chest could cause more unnecessary worry.
People feeling short of breath because of anxiety may convince themselves they’ve contracted COVID-19, said Danielle Searor, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Terros Health‘s Stapley Primary Care in Mesa.
The clinic does integrated health, providing care for both mental and physical issues. So Searor has heard from several people calling in about wanting tests even though they aren’t showing all the symptoms.
“It’s pretty apparent for us on our own end when it’s coronavirus versus the more of the mental health, the anxiousness the kind of stir-crazy is kind of the vibe that we’re getting a lot,” she said.
It’s not just shortness of breath. Searor says anxiety can bring on other physical symptoms that can trick you into thinking you have COVID-19, like fatigue, body aches and headaches.
“Anxiety can come across with physical symptoms, and so it’s kind of people talking themselves into thinking that they’ve got a sickness or an illness when, in reality, they’re just letting their mind go,” she said.
Rest assured, if it’s only shortness of breath, it likely isn’t coronavirus. Searor said shortness of breath caused by COVID-19 will usually be accompanied by a dry cough, fever and a loss of taste and smell.
How To Handle Shortness Of Breath From Anxiety
When trying to get yourself out of an anxious spiral, McKee recommends using relaxation techniques like deep diaphragmatic breathing and engaging in distractions thatll occupy your mind such as crossword puzzles, mental exercises like counting backward from 100, or even a video game or exercise. Here are some great tips for making a panic attack more bearable, which can help with non-panic anxiety too.
McKee also urges people with health anxiety to stop reading or watching news related to the new coronavirus, or, at the very least, to significantly limit news consumption. And make sure youre only looking at news from accurate sources.
If youre wondering how Im personally keeping it together, its thanks to online therapy, the power of distraction, and forcing myself to do a few self-care acts every day. Physically moving, whether its doing an at-home barre workout or going for a quick skateboard ride up and down the street, has been really beneficial for me. My logic is, If I can do this exercise without collapsing, my lungs are probably fine.
Connecting with people in the same shoes as me, like Denise and Millie, has been extremely comforting throughout this journey. It helps to know there are people out there having the exact thoughts that I am. If theres anything Ive learned from this anxiety-filled pandemic experience, its that Im not alone. And if youre feeling this way too, neither are you.
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