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Why Does Anxiety Make It Hard To Breathe

What Can You Do About Trigger Points That Might Be Interfering With Respiration

Can Anxiety Cause Shortness Of Breath?

Muscle trigger points are unpredictable and mysterious: exactly what they are and how to treat them is controversial. Sometimes they seem to melt as easily as ice cream in the sun, and so the first thing to try is just a little simple self-massage, or a warm bath, or both. The problem could be solved by a self-treatment as simple as digging with your thumbs into some aching muscles between your ribs. Voila no more shortness of breath! Ive seen it go like that many times, and even experienced it myself

My story: I am generally prone to muscle pain, and one of the most persistent specific challenges Ive had is with breathing pain not shortness of breath in my case, but breathing limited by pain. For about twenty years, I had routine episodes of strong pain that choked off my breath. Once every few days, I would be nearly paralyzed by it for several minutes, and sometimes nightmarish episodes of an hour or more. The pain would ease when I relaxed for long enough but its hard to relax when you cant breathe.

I recovered! I experimented with self-massage of my intercostals, discovered that I could easily stop any attack of this pain within a minute just by rubbing between the ribs near the pain.11 It was a revelation. Ive probably never been so happy to learn anything! Over a year or two, I massaged my intercostals regularly until I stopped having these episodes at all, and that benefit has now persisted for many years.

The Physical Side Of Anxiety

The brain is a powerful organ. So much that the anxiety, the depression, and the fear can turn mental fears into actual physical pains.

Most people actually experience anxiety as a physical problem, said Jason Conover, social worker for Intermountain Healthcares Utah Valley Hospital. It often doesnt get recognized because the physical symptoms are so apparent and quite troubling that they might think they are experiencing something else for instance, a heart attack.

Anxiety builds tension throughout the body. Conover said in the brain can react to thoughts of fear and turn to the muscles to brace for a moment that is not happening. Much like if you were about to get in an accident or protecting your body to get punched. The action never happens but chemically you just experienced it just from a random fear thought that crept in.

Treating anxiety is important for better mental health and physical health as well. Inflammation builds up from the stress, and inflammation is a culprit in numerous chronic conditions such as heart and gastrointestinal conditions.

Here are several ways that anxiety manifests in physical problems.

Breathing Due to the tension, your breathing can change, Conover said. Breathing can become shorter, shallower, or even holding your breath too long. The lungs do not fully exhale due to the tension. Relaxation and breathing techniques can help.

RELATED: Stress and Heart Disease

Seek Help

Shortness Of Breath Even When Im Not Having An Anxiety Attack


Hello I’m a 32 year old female,I have been having anxiety and some depression for about four years now!!so I understand everything that everybody on here is going through!!!!I started back on my meds almost 3 weeks ago….I can just be sitting there on my bed and start getting shortness of breath,even if I’m not having an anxiety attack….ive been to the er so many times because of my panicking….I’ve had xrays,ekg’s,and lots of blood work done,& the doctors tell me that I’m healthy….my psychiatrist told me that I think about the breathing too much and that Its just in my head,but it scares me!!!does anybody else have that same problem???I have read other stories with the same issues!!!I just want to know that I’m not the only one going through this!!!!!

16 likes, 292 replies

Also Check: How To Stop Shaking Hands From Anxiety

Therapies For Severe Cases

A person with severe COVID-19 may need supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. The latter involves inserting a tube into a persons windpipe. The tube is connected to a machine called a ventilator that helps the person breathe.

Other treatments aim to help control the infection and address problems involving the blood and the functioning of other organs.

The American Lung Association say that doing breathing exercises can help make the lungs work more efficiently. This may help a person with a mild case of COVID-19 that causes shortness of breath.

Here are a few strategies to try:

Mucus In Throat Hard To Breathe

Why do I sometimes suddenly have a hard time breathing ...

There is mucus in the digestive tract as well as the respiratory tract, but most people only notice it when it becomes excessive. Depending on many factors, the consistency, color, and volume of mucus can change. Excessive mucus can be quite annoying and dangerous, especially when it causes nasal congestion and makes it difficult to breathe.

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Why Anxiety Changes The Way You Breathe

Your brain and body are hardwired for instantaneous response to stress, regulated by the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. When you feel scared or anxious, a rapid-fire sequence of hormonal changes and physical responses prepares you to flee or fight. Our ancestors needed this response for survival. Anytime you feel stressed or anxious, your body responds with the same chemical and physical reactions. Its a natural process meant to protect you from danger.

Are There Ways To Calm Anxiety Related To Copd

You’ve already taken some smart first steps by learning about anxiety and its connection to COPD. Knowledge and understanding will help you feel like you have control over your condition. It will also give you the tools you need to explore your own feelings of anxiety and figure out what works best for you when it happens.

Here are 7 additional actions you can take:

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How Do You Know If You Have A Problem With Anxiety

Anyone can experience anxiety. Situational anxiety can snowball and begin to develop into a bigger problem, or an anxiety disorder. Some people have always been anxious and may have anxiety disorders without much external stress.

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, but two of the most common are generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Tips For Relieving Shortness Of Breath

Anxiety & Trouble Breathing, Shortness of Breath, Hyperventilation EXPLAINED!

Use controlled breathing techniques. Focusing on your breathing pattern may help decrease shortness of breath. Take slow, even breaths by inhaling deeply through your nose for a count of two and exhaling for a count of four. When you exhale, put your lips together as if you are slowly blowing out a candle.

Pace your activities. Plan your day so you use your energy on the activities most important to you first and limit unnecessary activities. If you become short of breath during an activity, stop and rest. Avoid multiple trips up and down stairs and take rest breaks in between and during activities.

Try to relax. When you feel short of breath, its important to stay calm, since anxiety can make breathing problems worse. A behavioral health therapist may recommend strategies, such as relaxation techniques, meditation or massage. A professional counselor/therapist can also provide emotional support and practical advice.

Find a comfortable position. Comfortable positioning may help make breathing easier. While in bed, raise your head on pillows so youre close to sitting up. Do not lie flat on your back. Instead, lie with your knees bent, or place a pillow under your knees. When sitting in a chair, sit upright and lean slightly forward with your arms resting on a table.

Visit a rehabilitation therapist. A rehabilitation program can teach you various techniques and therapies to help decrease shortness of breath.

Recommended Reading: Can You Self Diagnose Anxiety

What Are The Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Anxiety feels different for everyone and can affect our bodies in different ways. These are some of the physical symptoms of anxiety you might experience:

  • faster, shallower breathing
  • tightness or pain in the chest
  • pins and needles in toes or fingers
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat
  • raised blood pressure
  • needing the toilet more frequently
  • churning in the pit of the stomach.

Tips To Manage Anxiety And Stress

  • Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid binge eating or stress eating, which is common during periods of distress and uncertainty.
  • Stay active and exercise regularly. Walk outdoors on a nice day, or dust off some of that old fitness equipment in the basement.
  • Participate in hobbies and interests. Puzzles are one of the most popular items on the internet lately, which is an activity that encourages concentration and can be done alone or with others.

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety and need to determine if it is COVID-19 related, contact your primary care physician, many of whom are now offering virtual visits via phone or computer. Urgent care centers and telemedicine resources such as Convenient Care NOW are also helpful resources. In case of emergency, contact a crisis hotline or call 911.

Also Check: How Do You Know If You Have An Anxiety Attack

Theres Definitely Hope For Some Breathing Troubles

If youre short of breath for any of those reasons, easy relief is possible. Its safe, cheap, and almost fun to experiment with self-massage for trigger points. Results are hardly guaranteed, but its a sensible thing to try.

Changing bad habits is always tricky, but its a more likely path to relief, and increasing your respiratory strength is possible with a little oomph456 and its a worthwhile fitness goal in any case.

Anxiety is the toughest problem to beat, but anyone can benefit from trying.

These three issues may all get tangled up, each one complicating the others, but progress with one is also likely to help the others. Some simple and interesting ideas for self-treatment are suggested in this short article, plus links to much more information for those who want to delve.

Count Down To Calming

When to Worry about Shortness of Breath (and When Not To)

This countdown exercise takes a bit longer, so it gives you time to concentrate on the process of breathing and a break from the thoughts triggered by anxiety. With your thoughts momentarily redirected, you will have a better chance of mastering their effects.

  • Sit with your eyes closed
  • Inhale through your nose slowly while thinking about the word relax
  • Countdown with each slow exhales, beginning with ten until you have counted down to one
  • When you reach one, imagine all the tension leaving your body, then open your eyes

Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Anxiety Stomach Aches

Use Pursed Lip Breathing

If you have COPD, you may already be familiar with pursed lip breathing. Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth is a basic technique used to slow your breathing down and avoid hyperventilating.

There are many other breathing techniques advocated for relaxation, but these should be used with caution because they make you focus on your breathing and may increase anxiety.

For COPD patients, once you use positive thoughts and take care of yourself physically by resting and using pursed lip breathing, the best thing you can do is distract yourself, or focus on anything but your breathing.

Chapter 10breathlessness: From Bodily Symptom To Existential Experience

Tina Williams and Havi Carel.

Existentially, breathlessness is a constant reminder of impending mortality. Most of us want to die in our sleep with no knowledge of the event. Not only do patients with chronic, progressive lung disease know of their impending death months, years or decades ahead of the day, they fear how they will die, with the fear of suffocation always somewhere in their minds.

Currow and Johnson, Dyspnoea

This chapter uses a phenomenological approach to investigate the philosophical significance of a common yet debilitating experience: the experience of severe and pathological breathlessness. Using two key examples of breathlessness in the case of respiratory disease and in anxiety disorders we show why a phenomenological approach to the study of these experiences is needed and how the distinction between the somatic and the mental comes under pressure when considering a complex phenomenon like breathlessness.

As a result of the prioritization of the physiological, we suggest that patients are subject to unnecessary suffering, inappropriate treatments, increased failure rates in outcomes, and epistemic injustice . Moreover, we suggest that clinicians knowledge, understanding, and treatment of comorbid mental health conditions in respiratory patients is lacking and further exacerbates an already complex and debilitating health concern.

Read Also: Does Anxiety Cause Breathing Problems

Indirect Consequences Of Stress And Anxiety

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:

How To Breathe Better

Royal & the Serpent – Overwhelmed (Lyrics)

If you want to practice breathing for better mental and physical health, there are endless techniques you can try. Although these shouldnt be seen as a replacement for therapy or a cure for severe anxiety, they can be a free, simple tool for both short-term relief and long-term benefit.

Breathing techniques could be used as first-line and supplemental treatments for stress anxiety, write Ravinder Jerath and his colleagues in a 2015 study.

Many of the techniques that have been formally researched are derived from pranayama, yogic breathing that dates back to ancient India:

  • Ujayyi: Deep breathing with a narrowed throat, creating an ocean-like sound, often recommended while doing yoga asanas.
  • Bhastrika, or bellows breath: inhaling and exhaling forcefully.
  • Nadi Sodhan and Anulom Vilom: Types of alternate nostril breathing, where air is inhaled in one nostril and exhaled through the other, sometimes with breath holding.

There are also a variety of box breathing practices, derived from the pranayama Sama Vritti, where you inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four, and repeat. Other timed techniques include 4-7-8 breathing, often recommended to help you fall asleep.

In the same way that mindfulness practice isnt just meditation, breathing as a practice isnt just waking up every morning and doing 10 minutes of box breathing. Another important component is being aware of the way you breathe in everyday life .

Also Check: How Bad Can Anxiety Get

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