Our body and mind are interconnected systems. Many people believe that breathing issues arise from physical ailments. But, in truth, it is not the case; our mental health influences our physical fitness in many ways. For example, shortness of breath and anxiety are related to each other. Experiencing shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea and other breathing problems, are common symptoms of anxiety.
While among other physical symptoms, breathlessness caused due to anxiety, it is essential to consider that breathlessness triggered by other factors may also create anxiety.
Here, we reveal more about this symptom, how to deal with it and when to consult your doctor.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Breathlessness
Anxiety is a typical human response to fear, also known as the fight-or-flight response. The billions of years of evolution prepared the human body to react physically yet mentally to fight for life or run away from a life-threatening situation.
One of those responses includes shortness of breath – you may feel like you are out of breath, experience stiffness in your chest, or suffocate. In addition, the latest research has disclosed a strong relationship between anxiety and respiratory issues, including difficulty in breathing.
Other symptoms of anxiety breathing problems include:
- Breathing hastily (hyperventilation)
- Stiffness in chest
- Experiencing chest pain
- Feeling of suffocation
- Feel a lump in your throat
- Muscle tension
- Heart beat palpitations
- Feeling dizziness
- Nausea or disturbed stomach
- Restlessness and irritability
The Catalysts of Shortness of Breath and Anxiety
The fight-or-flight response, anxiety breathing, and other physical symptoms are evolved to protect you. When you feel anxious, it doesn’t mean you are running for your life – it is how your body responds when you are alive in this world.
You experience stiff chest, hasty breathing, shortness of breath, and anxiety because your body is trying to bring more oxygen to your muscles to prepare you to run. Likewise, when more blood gets pumped to your muscles, your heart rate increases, making you feel hot and preparing you to fight.
Of course, in today’s modern world, you probably need not often run away from troubles or fight for your life. Chances are low for an attack from wild bears or men with spears and swords. But still, you react when you enter a crowded grocery store or when you think about your work presentation and other anxiety-inducing events.
Some of the other catalysts of shortness of breath and anxiety include:
- Change in altitude
- Wears tight clothes
- A sedentary lifestyle
Some of the physical ailments in which you may experience shortness of breath and anxiety include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Heart failure or heart attack
- Low blood pressure
- Blocked upper airways
How to Ward Off Shortness of Breath and Anxiety
Anxiety attack causes breathlessness, and focusing on your breathing may seem counterintuitive. But, in a real sense, concentrating on your breathing helps you bring it under control and put the right amount of oxygen into your lungs.
When you experience breathlessness, you may generally be breathing using your mouth or chest. Diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing recommended by experts works as it uses the diaphragm, the most efficient muscle for breathing.
Some of the benefits of diaphragmatic or deep breathing include:
- Slows down your breathing rate
- Decreases the need for oxygen
- Uses lesser effort to breathe
A Few More Ways to Deal with Anxiety and Breathlessness
The primary way to prevent breathlessness caused due to anxiety is to practice the breathing technique already mentioned and the techniques going to be said. It is also essential to understand your triggers for an anxiety attack. No one prepares for an earthquake when it strikes; the preparation should be done beforehand. Dealing with anxiety should also be done in the same way.
Keep a thought log: You can write down your unconscious thoughts that had triggered your last episode of an anxiety attack. It helps you to identify triggers and to reflect on your anxiety calmly. In addition, writing down your physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings while you experience anxiety and breathlessness helps your doctor treat you well.
Practice meditation regularly: Regular meditation helps you reduce your anxiety disorder and anxiety breathing problems. Numerous studies also back this fact. You can also practice mindfulness in your regular activities. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your body and your anxiety and breathlessness triggers. Mindful eating or a mindful walk will do the job.
Get professional help: Anxiety attacks, anxiety disorder, and various other symptoms of anxiety can be solved if you consult and collaborate with a mental health professional. A mental health professional can develop effective strategies to beat shortness of breath and anxiety. In addition, they can help you deal with negative thoughts while you feel anxious and experience difficulty breathing, mainly when anxiety is high or causes distress.
When to Consult with your Doctor
Shortness of breath due to anxiety can trigger various physical ailments. It is always a good idea to monitor your symptoms of anxiety and do a timely consultation with your doctor to rule out further complications like anxiety disorder. Getting help from a physician can also alleviate your anxiety levels. For instance, many people believe they have a heart attack during an anxiety attack. This fear only worsens the panic from an anxiety attack. Consult your doctor if you experience constant breathlessness, even if it is not linked with anxiety.
It’s important to remember that shortness of breath and anxiety, anxiety attacks, and anxiety disorders won’t kill you. And, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. For example, during anxiety breathing, you never suffocate, you never stop breathing, and more than anything else, you never die from it. Likewise, an anxiety attack never turns into a heart attack, either.
It is always good to be fearful about your health as it motivates you to do consistent health check-ups. Once you are cleared of any physical and mental triggers for your shortness of breath and anxiety, hold it as a certificate of good health and as a reminder when you encounter another episode of an anxiety or panic attack.