How Anxiety can cause Shortness of Breath

Shortness of Breath
Shortness of Breath

Experiencing shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties can feel scary. However, it is not an uncommon symptom of anxiety. While anxiety can cause shortness of breath, it is important to acknowledge that shortness of breath can be due to other reasons.  The start of the pandemic has welcomed vast increases in online doctor consultations. Using this facility, here is how you can know about these symptoms and when you can see your doctor.

Symptoms of Anxiety and Shortness of Breath

One of the main reasons you catch shortness of breath or like you’re suffocating is hungry for air.

Studies have shown a strong association between anxiety and respiratory symptoms including shortness of breath. Other symptoms that can occur during this response and as a result of anxiety include

          Faster breathing

          Chest tightness

          Breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation

          Muscle tension

          Nausea or stomach discomfort

          Restlessness, irritability

          Or feeling edgy

What causes shortness of breath from anxiety?

Due to the stress levels high in your brain, shortness of breath is a normal body response. This body response is to recover your body into a normal state. This is also when your body tries to catch up more on oxygen. Due to this phenomenon, your body tries to pump more blood to your brain which is why your heartbeat pulse increases and you go into a fly or flight mode of your body.

How to get rid of shortness of breath from anxiety

When you are experiencing shortness of breath you practice diaphragmatic breathing that helps in breathing muscle. When you are experiencing shortness of breath, you are generally breathing from your mouth or chest. Stable diaphragmatic breathing can help with

          Slowing your breath rate

          Decrease your demand for oxygen

          Use a lot of effort and energy to breathe

Here is how practicing diaphragmatic breathing helps with

  1.       Sitting up comfortably in a chair or lying back on a flat surface with your head supported
  2.       Breathe in slowly through your nose so your stomach moves out against your hand. Repeat this practice daily for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
  3.       Tighten your stomach muscles and let them inhale and exhale slowly from your nose or mouth.
  4.       Place one hand on your chest and allow your chest to rise and fall as you try to stabilize your breathing.

There are other self anxiety-relieving techniques that you can do to help with breathing issues on your own. You should do whatever helps you make your nerves calmer.

Here are some common anxiety-relieving techniques to try for starters;

          Mindful distractions- as soon as you feel an anxiety attack coming in, immediately divert your attention to some nearby distraction. According to specialists in Hameed Lateef Hospital Lahore, as soon as you shift your focus you will immediately feel more control of your situation.

          Exercise- it may seem a little absurd to exercise when you are going through an anxiety attack, but doing some vigorous physical activity can help you with controlling your condition right away.

          Shock yourself. A shock such as dipping your face into ice-cold water can also soothe down your anxiety attack. It is actually a technique recommended by therapists for helping with easing the anxiety.

When to see your doctor

If you experience shortness of breath consistently you should consult with a doctor right away. Similarly, if you experience the following symptoms seek immediate medical help

          Tightness in the chest

          Fatigue and constant lightheadedness

          Unexplainable discomfort in your arm or shoulder

          Excessive sweating


Shortness of breath can be worrisome especially if it happens on a consistent basis. If you experience it as an ongoing symptom get it checked out right away. However, if you are experiencing anxiety attacks, please know you would not die from it. Rather a timely diagnosis and treatment will help you come back to life.

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