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Does Anxiety Cause Breathing Problems

I: Trigger Pointsthe Effects Of Muscle Knots On Breathing

When anxiety affects your breathing

Trigger points better known as muscle knots can cause shortness of breath. They are small patches of sensitive muscle tissue, maybe caused by a micro cramp, or possibly neurological hypersensitivity. Trigger points are a big, tricky topic.

Trigger points may form in the muscles we use to breathe, making it difficult or even painful to move the ribs and expand the chest. Even the diaphragm itself might develop trigger points that make it feel weak and tired, and limit its range of contraction.8

Quick muscle knot orientation: So-called muscle knots AKA trigger points are small unexplained sore spots in muscle tissue associated with stiffness and soreness. No one doubts that they are there, but they are unexplained and controversial. They can be surprisingly intense, cause pain in confusing patterns, and they grow like weeds around other painful problems and injuries, but most healthcare professionals know little about them, so misdiagnosis is epidemic. For more information about how trigger points might be involved in your own medical history, see PainScience.coms popular e-book: The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain: An extremely detailed guide to the unfinished science of muscle pain, with reviews of every theory and treatment option.

Trigger points in the muscles of the throat, neck, chest, and back may also interfere with the nervous systems control of respiration.9

What Causes Acute Dyspnea Or Shortness Of Breath

Factors that may cause acute shortness of breath include:

  • Allergies: People often feel short of breath during an allergic reaction.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety can cause hyperventilation .
  • Choking: A blockage in your throat can make it difficult for air to move in and out of your lungs. Inhaling food or an object into your lungs also blocks airflow.
  • Pulmonary embolism: This happens when you have a blood clot in your lungs. This condition is a medical emergency.
  • Heart attack: A blockage that stops blood flow to the heart can cause frightening breathlessness. If you notice this symptom along with other heart attack symptoms, call 911.
  • Infection: An infection like bronchitis or pneumonia may produce mucous that blocks airflow to parts of the lungs. This can interfere with oxygen diffusion to the blood.
  • Injury: A broken rib can make breathing painful and difficult. Bleeding and anemia can lower the number of red blood cells, which lessens the amount of oxygen carried in the blood.
  • Medication: Certain medicines can cause a tight feeling in the chest. Statins and beta blockers given for hypertension in asthmatic individuals may cause this symptom.
  • Extreme temperatures. Being very hot or very cold can make you feel like you are having trouble breathing.

Is My Shortness Of Breath Anxiety Or Coronavirus

  • Baton Rouge General

With so much information during this uncertain time, its hard not to feel anxiety. High levels of anxiety however could affect your health and lead to symptoms that mimic those of COVID-19.

Shortness of breath is identified as an increased effort to breathe, chest tightness or a feeling of not getting enough oxygen. While this can be attributed to both anxiety and coronavirus, their symptoms are quite different. Symptoms of anxiety can also include: feelings of panic and fear, obsessive thoughts, excessive sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness. Symptoms of coronavirus include: fever, dry cough, aches and pains, nasal congestion, sore throat, or diarrhea the major distinctions in this case being fever and dry cough.

A person who is experiencing shortness of breath due to anxiety may also only experience it in intervals lasting 10 30 minutes at a time and symptoms will likely come and go throughout the day. Whereas a person with coronavirus who is having difficulty breathing will experience it for a longer period of time, typically alongside flu-like symptoms.

If you find that you are experiencing anxiety, here are some things that you can do to help ease the symptoms that you may be feeling:

  • Take slow deep breaths
  • Go for a walk or try a stretching exercise
  • Limit the amount of news you watch and read
  • Watch a funny video or movie
  • Read a book or find a hobby you enjoy

For more COVID-19 information, visit our COVID-19 Information page.

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Can Anxiety Cause Breathing Problems

People suffering from anxiety can have breathing difficulties. At first they may believe there is something physically wrong with them and visit a doctor, but when all the tests show there is nothing wrong it usually turns out that anxiety is the culprit. Although anxiety cannot cause any serious breathing problems, it can cause many uncomfortable breathing-related symptoms.

Chest Tightness

  • Chest tightness is a common symptom of anxiety that can affect breathing. While anxious, a person tightens most of the muscles in the body unconsciously. This can also include the chest muscles giving the sensation of chest tightness. When this happens the person may feel like they arent able to breathe right or that they cant get a deep enough breath. Focusing on relaxing all the muscles in the body can help reduce this symptom.

Shortness of Breath

  • Anxiety can cause a number of psychosomatic symptoms including shortness of breath. People suffering from anxiety often feel short of breath like they cant get enough air. Although the person feels like they are unable to breath, they are in fact able to and it is just the anxiety causing this sensation. The best way to counteract this is for the person to take slow, deep breaths reassuring themselves that they are in fact able to breathe.


Panic Attacks


About Shortness Of Breath

How To Help Anxiety Breathing Problems

Sudden shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty , is the most common reason for visiting a hospital accident and emergency department.

Itâs also one of the most common reasons people phone 999 for an ambulance.

Itâs normal to get out of breath when youâve overexerted yourself, but when breathlessness comes on suddenly and unexpectedly, itâs usually a warning sign of a medical condition.

The information below outlines the most common reasons for:

  • sudden shortness of breath
  • long-term shortness of breath

This guide shouldnât be used to self-diagnose your condition, but should give you an idea of whatâs causing your breathlessness.

Also Check: What Is The Best Magnesium For Anxiety And Depression

Recommended Reading: Can Anxiety Happen For No Reason

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

Anxiety Breathing Symptoms And How To Stop Them

While everyone feels anxious from time to time, one in five people lives under the influence of a potentially debilitating anxiety disorder. Typically, anxiety disorders are the result of a chemical imbalance within the brain, but they can also be triggered by personal trauma or the result of genetic predisposition.

While symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person, all types of anxiety can potentially affect your breathing patterns and increase your heart rate. You may have experienced episodes that made it feel nearly impossible to catch your breath. Its frightening and very real. Anxiety can affect your ability to breathe and the way you breathe can also influence your anxiety levels. You can take control of the way you breathe to minimize anxiety breathing symptoms.

Read Also: Can I Get An Emotional Support Animal For Anxiety

How Can I Ease Or Relieve Shortness Of Breath

You may prevent or relieve shortness of breath on your own. Helpful steps may include:

  • Avoiding inhaling chemicals that can irritate your lungs, like paint fumes and car exhaust.
  • Practicing breathing and/or relaxation techniques to improve your breathing function.
  • Stopping smoking, if you smoke. Dont start smoking if you dont now smoke.
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Avoiding activity in times when temperatures are very hot or very cold, or when the humidity is high. If you have lung disease, observe air pollution alerts issued on radio and TV.
  • Making sure your equipment is in good working order when you use oxygen.

Why Panic Attacks Cause Shortness Of Breath

Can Anxiety Cause Difficulty Breathing (HERE’S THE TRUTH)

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.

Also Check: How To Self Soothe Anxiety

Trouble Breathing And Anxiety

Anxiety is a type of fear. When you are afraid, your body goes into fight or flight mode . Your body is used to dealing with dangers like being attacked by a wild animal or having to run away from falling rocks. Its not always smart enough to realize that you cant deal with all your day-to-day struggles by running away or fighting for your life. A lot of the time, that fight or flight mode only makes things worse. Shallow breathing and tense muscles just make you feel even more afraid.

Thats why anxiety causes trouble breathing. So whats the solution? Well, there are many ways to treat anxiety. But here are a few quick things that are helpful for many people:

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!

Also Check: Is Social Anxiety A Mental Illness

The Relationship Between Stress And Shortness Of Breath

When faced with situations that trigger stress, your brain is in a fight or flight position . The hypothalamus in the brain, the part that stimulates hormone production, then sends signals to the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline.

Both of these hormones enhance various bodily functions, including heart rate to increase blood flow to important organs. Your breathing rate will also increase dramatically to meet the needs of oxygen throughout the body quickly.

This mechanism is actually useful for preparing the body in response to danger. But at the same time, stress hormones can narrow the muscles of the respiratory tract and blood vessels.

Breathing also becomes ineffective because you unconsciously breathe short and fast, not slowly and deeply as in normal conditions. All of these changes eventually make you short of breath when experiencing stress.

Apart from stress, you can also experience difficulty breathing when you feel panic, anxiety, nervousness, or even sadness. All three of these conditions trigger the same hormonal reaction so that their effects are similar in your body.

Indirect Consequences Of Stress And Anxiety

Breathing problem: Which things help to reduce the ...

The way we breathe is a powerful aspect of self-expression. Anxiety, emotional constipation, and other habits of mind and dysfunctional and self-limiting behavioural patterns might be associated with strong breathing patterns, especially shallow breathing.

Shallow breath is what we do when we literally hide . It is also what we do when we feel like we want to hide! Deep breathing is one of the main practical suggestions for fighting anxiety. Its a feedback loop.

Habitually breathing shallowly can be so subtle for so long that we dont even realize theres a problem until all the contributing factors and bad habits and vicious cycles are too deeply entrenched to break free a classic boiling frog kind of problem.

All of this is a rather complicated mess to try to sort out, but Im not going to leave you hanging. Here are several relevant, practical self-help articles. They all focus on what you can do about these issues:

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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.

How To Tell The Difference Between Breathing Problems From Anxiety And The New Coronavirus

To be really upfront, this is a tricky topic overall. Its one thing to explain expert-based advice for differentiating between the two, but the nature of anxiety can make it really hard to put into practice. First, well walk through expert insight on how to try to tell the difference, then well get into the nuances of why this advice can be hard to followplus what you might still be able to do for relief.

Even though shortness of breath from anxiety can certainly make you panic that you have the new coronavirus, there are a couple of concrete ways to try to tell whats causing your shortness of breath, Dr. Castriotta says.

First, think about if you have a history of shortness of breath as an anxiety symptom. If youve experienced multiple spells of anxiety manifesting with the exact symptoms youre currently dealing with, including shortness of breath, it might be easier to convince yourself thats what is going on. If thats the situation at hand, here are some tips for dealing with overwhelming new coronavirus anxiety. If your anxiety normally presents in other ways and this shortness of breath is new for you, thats worth noting and bringing up with your doctor or therapist via a phone call or a virtual visit.

Also Check: How To Help My Anxiety

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