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.
Getting Help For Anxiety And Shortness Of Breath
Shortness of breath could also be caused by other things like working out, tight clothing, a change in altitude, other health conditions, and more. Its a good idea to consult with a doctor to make sure that there isnt an underlying health condition that could be causing your breathing issues.
If you feel like anxiety is taking over your life, online or in-person therapy can help. Combining that with some of the techniques listed above can help you manage your anxiousness and give you tips on how to live a more fulfilling life.
EverydayDr is proud to be partnered with PlushCare, a premier telehealth service that provides access to top licensed doctors. You can make an appointment from the comfort of your own home, and get treated for shortness of breath and anxiety conveniently and affordably.
PlushCare also offers online therapy and can connect you with a licensed mental health professional for weekly video chat therapy sessions to treat the root cause of your anxiety. Book a therapy appointment here.
Anxiety And Shortness Of Breath: Causes And Remedies
Shortness of breath is the feeling of not able to get enough air. You may feel as if your breathing is forced, labored or you are being suffocated. Sometimes when anxiety and shortness of breath occur together, you may start panicking and fears may arise that you will suffocate to death. While these fears are unfounded, you should know that when youre having trouble breathing there are some root causes behind it.
There are a number of medical conditions that can lead to the symptom of shortness of breath.
Anxiety is a human emotion that anyone can experience at anytime. However it becomes a psychiatric disorder when a person feels anxious and the problem interferes with daily routine life. Shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of anxiety. An anxious person may feel his/her heart beating fast, and breathing becoming shallow and rapid. Breathing problems while sleeping, shortness of breath when walking, etc can all be caused by anxiety.
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What Does Shortness Of Breath Mean
Shortness of breath occurs when you’re not getting enough oxygen, leaving you to feel like you need to breathe harder, quicker and/or deeper. And, if you feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen, your organs aren’t either which can have serious short-term and long-term consequences to your health.
“As mentioned, shortness of breath can be caused by a variety of conditions, ranging from asthma and COPD to heart failure. Your doctor can run the tests needed to help make a diagnosis, as well as offer lifestyle recommendations or prescribe medications that can help treat the underlying cause of your shortness of breath,” explains Dr. Safdar.
For instance, if you are diagnosed with asthma, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler and recommend you quit smoking and avoid other lung irritants.
“One thing to note is that smoking includes anything that results in smoke leaving your mouth vaping and hookah included,” adds Dr. Safdar.
If shortness of breath continues to progress despite lifestyle modifications and treatment, your doctor may refer you to a pulmonologist or cardiologist, depending on the source of your shortness of breath.
Anxiety: Breathing Problems And Exercises
How anxiety is affected by the breath
Most everyone will experience mild anxiety at some point in their lives. Some peoples anxiety reaction becomes much more extreme and can happen during normal, daily activities. This is called an anxiety disorder. There are many kinds of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and panic attacks.
Anxiety can affect your breathing. On the other hand, your breathing can affect feelings of anxiety. Deep or rhythmic breathing is a good way to decrease symptoms of anxiety. Breathing can also help focus your thoughts.
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When Is Shortness Of Breath Serious
“You should always take shortness of breath seriously,” stresses Dr. Safdar.
Importantly, if shortness of breath is moderate to severe and occurs suddenly and especially if it’s accompanied by chest pain, lightheadedness and changes to the color of your skin it’s become a medical emergency that warrants a call to 911.
“This can be a sign of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, which are both life-threatening emergencies,” says Dr. Safdar. “Additionally, the symptoms of a panic attack can overlap with these medical emergencies. Still, even if you think your symptoms are due to a panic attack, it’s important to go to the ER to get checked out and confirm you’re not in immediate danger.”
Then there’s the milder shortness of breath experienced on occasion with physical activity. While this isn’t a medical emergency, it’s not something to ignore either.
“Even mild shortness of breath can be a harbinger of a more serious condition,” says Dr. Safdar. “And if it progresses to the point where it’s causing you to modify your activity level, it’s definitely time to talk to your primary care doctor about your symptoms.”
Tips For Box Breathing
There are a number of steps that people can take to make box breathing easier:
- Try to find a quiet space to begin with box breathing. A person can do this anywhere, but it is easier if there are few distractions.
- With all deep breathing techniques, placing one hand on the chest and another on the lower stomach can help. When breathing in, try to feel the air and see where it is entering.
- Focus on feeling an expansion in the stomach, but without forcing the muscles to push out.
- Try to relax the muscles instead of engaging them.
I recommend to start with a minimum of 5 minutes just after waking up, or after coming home from work before walking in the door. It can be added to your meditation practice do the box breathing first, and it will settle you into a deeper mental state for meditation afterward.
He also believes that box breathing can be used to prepare for a stressful event, such as a speech, or to calm down during or after a stressful event.
Many breathing techniques are classed as diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing. Box breathing is one of the easiest to master, and is a great entry point into breathing methods.
Other breathing methods commonly used to increase alertness, calm nerves, and achieve calmness include:
- Pranayama breathing
- meditation breathing
- Shaolin Dan Tian breathing
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How Is Breathlessness Diagnosed
To diagnose the underlying cause of your breathlessness, your doctor may ask you about the following:
- How often it happens, how quickly it comes on and how long it lasts.
- If anything causes you to become breathless or makes it worse.
- If it happens at rest or with activity.
- If you can sleep flat at night or if it gets worse lying down.
- If you been unwell with a fever.
- If you have been coughing any mucus or have any discomfort in your chest.
If you are known to have a condition that causes breathlessness, your doctor will review your medications and/or inhalers. They may ask you how you have been using them. Your doctor or nurse may explain how to use them to make sure they are working well.
Your doctor may also listen to your heart and lungs. If the cause of your breathlessness is not obvious from your history and examination, your doctor may talk to you about having some tests. These include:
How To Get Your Breathing Back To Normal
If your anxiety often causes shortness of breath, youre not alone. Since this is one of the most common ways our bodies show us that were anxious, there are a number of methods available to help get your breathing back to normal.
You can also use these helpful tips to prevent shortness of breath before it starts.
- Try to breathe from your diaphragm , let your stomach push out as you inhale.
- Focus on breathing deeply and slowly, breath in through your nose for at least 4 seconds and out through your mouth for at least 4 seconds.
- Try to remain calm, remind yourself that you are not in any harm and you are going to get your breath back.
Focusing on your breathing, when incorporated into your everyday life, comes with several health benefits.
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Manage Stress Panic And Breathlessness
It is common for someone you are taking care of to feel upset and frightened when he or she is out of breath. As a carer, you may also feel the same.
Breathlessness can be triggered by:
- certain activity such as getting washed or dressed
- hot or cold environment, aerosols or dust
- emotions such as feeling stressed or upset.
Sometimes, there is no obvious trigger.
If the person you are caring for is feeling stressed, that can worsen the breathlessness. The stress and breathlessness can feed each other in an unhelpful cycle.
Stress is a normal feeling we all have from time to time. It is your body’s response to threat with a combination of worrying thoughts, feelings and emotions plus a range of bodily changes such as tight muscles, rapid breathing and increased heart beat.
About Shortness Of Breath
Sudden shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty , is the most common reason for visiting a hospital accident and emergency department.
It’s also one of the most common reasons people phone 999 for an ambulance.
It’s normal to get out of breath when you’ve overexerted yourself, but when breathlessness comes on suddenly and unexpectedly, it’s 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 shouldn’t be used to self-diagnose your condition, but should give you an idea of what’s causing your breathlessness.
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Other Ways To Manage Anxiety
While breathing has been shown to alleviate some anxiety, it is important to realize that panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and depression are mental health conditions. These should always be assessed and treated by a medical professional. If your anxiety feels out of control, affects your daily life, or simple relaxation techniques do not help, it is time to contact your doctor.
There are treatments, counseling, as well as medications that can ease anxiety that goes beyond occasional anxiety. You can talk to your doctor about incorporating some deep breathing exercises with any other treatments you are given. Breathing can help you with a panic attack and enable you to get to your medication or therapist.
Trigger A Relaxation Response By Breathing Through Your Nose
Resisting the urge to take in large amounts of air through your mouth can help you restore a calm breathing pattern. Breathing through your nose will activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Changing your breathing pattern sends strong messages to your brain. When you work on breathing calmly, your brain will call off the alarm.
Many people find breathing exercises helpful for controlling their anxiety symptoms. Here are a few simple breathing exercises that may help keep your sympathetic nervous system, the alarm system, from running the show.
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How To Get Rid Of Shortness Of Breath From Anxiety
When youre experiencing shortness of breath from an anxiety attack, it may seem counterintuitive that your breathing is what you should focus on.
But by focusing on your breathing, you can get it under control and the right amount of oxygen into your lungs.
Experts recommend practicing diaphragmatic breathing. This is a type of breathing technique that uses your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the most efficient breathing muscle we have.
When youre experiencing shortness of breath, youre generally breathing from your mouth or chest. Diaphragmatic breathing can:
- slow your breathing rate
- use less effort and energy to breathe
Heres how to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
The more you can slow down the physical sensations during periods of high anxiety, the more you can use your rational mind to assess what is going on. Elke Zuercher-White in An End to Panic
You can also try these anxiety-relieving techniques:
Easy To Follow Breathing Routine
There are ways to help deal with shortness of breath from anxiety. Try following these steps to get control of your breath.
- Start by making sure youre in a comfortable position. This can be sitting up or lying down, as long as youre on a flat surface with your head supported.
- Take one hand and place it around your belly button and put the other on your chest, near the center of your rib cage. Doing this will make it much easier to feel your breath as you inhale and exhale.
- Lower your shoulders and breath in through your nose to the count of four. If youre more experienced with breathwork, you can skip the count of four and breath in until your lungs are full.
- Hold your breath in for four to seven seconds.
- When its time to exhale, open your mouth and audibly let the breath out.
- Repeat this for up to ten minutes for the best results.
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Shortness Of Breath And Anxiety
Dyspnea or simply shortness of breath refers to a situation when you experience an intense tightening in the chest or a feeling of suffocation. Extreme temperatures, strenuous exercise, high altitude and massive obesity can also lead to shortness of breath. In some cases, shortness of breath, anxiety or sweating may well be signs of an underlying medical problem and it is common to feel suffocated when anxious. Talk to your doctor when you have anxiety or cannot pinpoint the exact cause of your problem.