shortness of breath anxiety

Shortness of Breath Anxiety -Should You be Worried?

Anxiety comes in many shapes and forms. Most of you may be familiar with the anxiety that is linked to worry or fear but not people are aware of the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. The fact is that this condition can create a large number of physical symptoms and shortness of breath anxiety is just one of many.

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Typical examples of physical feelings and sensations that are linked to anxiety include:

  • Heart Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Aches and Pains
  • Stomach Problems
  • Shaking or Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Headaches
  • Muscle Tension

Feeling short of breath is just another in this long list that can leave you feeling frightened or worried with the fear that you may be genuinely ill.

Now of course at our clinics we always make sure that our clients are checked over by a doctor if they are showing any physical symptoms just to rule out illness. When that has been ruled out and shortness of breath anxiety it is possible to start therapy to help.

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Shortness of Breath Anxiety Symptoms

What exactly are the shortness of breath anxiety symptoms that we may come across? Typically our clients tell us of a feeling unable to breathe properly as if they are not able to get enough air into the lungs. Others feel as if their chests are too tight or start to panic that they will die because they are not getting enough air.

If you have a shortness of breath anxiety then expect to feel at least some of these:

  • Overbreathing or hyperventilating
  • Feeling unable to get enough air into the lungs
  • A worry about suffocating
  • A worry about fainting or collapsing
  • Feeling an intense fear of worry
  • Tightness in your chest muscles

All of these feelings are perfectly normal and are caused by your body to help you in a fight or flight situation. Fight or flight is simply your bodies response to danger. It wants you to get ready to fight anything that might be about to attack you or run away from the threat as fast as you can so you are not hurt.

Shortness of breath anxiety is the bodies way of getting as much oxygen as it possibly can into your muscles so that if you need to get away from a bad situation you can do it as quickly as possible.

The only problem is that sometimes your fight or flight goes into overdrive and starts to kick in when there isn’t a real threat. So suddenly the shortness of breath attack will occur somewhere like your office when nothing bad appears to be happening around you.

Therapy for Anxiety Symptoms

Even though many people will tell you that shortness of breath is just anxiety in overdrive and there may be no reason for it therapists know better. There is nearly always a reason why your body is kicking into fight or flight mode and a good therapist can help you to discover why. This is the key to resolving your issues with anxiety.

Let’s discuss the scenario about the office again. You are sat in work and suddenly you feel as if you cannot breathe and the panic and fear starts to overtake you. Was there anxiety for no reason or did something cause this problem?

A therapist can start to question you to determine what else may have been happening to push you into fight or flight mode. If you cannot consciously recall what that may be an anxiety hypnotherapist can usually help you recall it under hypnosis. Here might be some typical reasons in this example why a person might be anxious.

  • Before they arrived at work they received some bad news about the death of a family member
  • The person was stressed and working on a project late for the last two weeks with little sleep
  • They were expected to conduct a very important presentation that day but had an intense fear of public speaking
  • They have social anxiety disorder and worry about interacting with others in case they embarrass themselves
  • Their boss is highly demanding and critical and makes them feel inferior

When you start to analyse the problem a little bit more it becomes easier to identify where the anxiety is coming from and do something about it.

Why do You Experience Shortness of Breath in Anxiety?

I have already talked about fight or flight mode creating issues with shortness of breath but there are also two other issues that should be discussed.

Firstly there is hyperventilation or over-breathing. This is often found when someone is experiencing a panic attack. Instead of breathing at a normal rate, you start to breathe in and out too quickly which changes the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance. Contrary to what you may believe you are actually getting too much oxygen rather than too little. A simple way of resolving the problem is to alter your breathing patterns to change the balance back to normal.

Another problem I see with my clients is a problem called hypervigilance where you spend too much time thinking about the processes that are going on in your body. Your breathing happens naturally and without you ever having to think about it. Yet if I get you to pay attention to your breathing and you start to worry that you are not doing it right you create panic and start to over breathe to compensate causing the hyperventilating. The trick is to think externally rather than allowing your focus to move to the internal.

Do you want to identify the sources of your anxiety? We have created anxiety tracker printables to help you monitor and challenge your stressors. Find out more details in our online store.

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Air Hunger  – Psychogenic Dyspnea Vs Organic

It is also worth noting that you can be anxious and have other conditions that cause you to feel breathless. For example, if you are pregnant as you become nearer to your due date the size of the baby can impair your breathing. Also if you are overweight then you may find it harder to breathe for example walking or going upstairs. If you have either of these problems and also have anxiety then you can start to panic about the breathing issue rather than rationalising about what may have caused it.

Certain illnesses such as asthma or COPD can also cause issues with breathing. Some of my clients find it difficult to differentiate when their breathing is being impacted by their medical condition or their fear. 

Some people call the term Air Hunger (dyspnea) where they feel they are unable to get enough air into their body. Therapists deal with psychogenic air hunger related to panic attacks, hyperventilation due to psychological reasons or compulsive sighing. Doctors deal with medical issues. 

There may, of course, be times where the two overlap. If someone has asthma that is increased due to their anxiety levels working with a medical professional can help to reduce the feelings of air hunger. As ever it is always sensible to check with a medical professional before embarking on treatment to make sure the right problem is being resolved.

Anxiety Relief Solutions

If you suffer from shortness of breath anxiety as well as any other physical or psychological symptoms then there are proactive steps you can take to help yourself.

Firstly look at any stress in your life and try and discover ways to reduce it where possible. High stress levels contribute to anxiety so getting them under control is going to be important for your recovery.

One way of helping yourself to feel calmer and more relaxed is by practising deep relaxation and stress reduction that you can find in my download shop. Listening to a guided meditation for relaxation can help you to slow down your breathing and relax and switch off. You can purchase your copy in my online store.

You can also practice exercises to help change the speed of your breathing patterns. One of the most simple of these is 7/11 breathing. Where you breathe in for the count of 7 and breathe out for the count of 11. I also teach more exercises to help with anxiety in my online Stop Anxiety Course.

If you want to learn more in-depth breathing techniques which can help then why not try Breathwork by Valerie Moselle. She is an experienced yoga and breathwork practitioner who can help you to create better-breathing patterns.

Online Anxiety Course

Anxiety is a condition that can be managed effectively if you the right tips and strategies that work. This is why I put together a comprehensive course to teach people like you how to manage the problem. The course consists of a series of videos and downloads to help you understand the condition and to teach you practical techniques that can help you make a difference. My course techniques have been used thousands of time with clients and can change your thinking as well as any physical anxiety symptoms.

To get access to the course simply follow the link to my online store and get your instant download to start making a difference to your shortness of breath anxiety today.

You Might Also Want to Read:

High Functioning Anxiety What Does it Mean?

Anxiety Self-Help – 10 Strategies That work

Online Therapy for Anxiety – Why it Works

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Martina McKeough
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Shortness of Breath Anxiety - Should you be worried?
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Shortness of Breath Anxiety - Should you be worried?
Should you be worried about shortness of breath anxiety? Find out more information about this anxiety symptom and what you can do to help yourself.
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Rewire The Mind
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