Can Anxiety Cause Breathing Difficulties


Can Anxiety Cause Breathing Difficulties

Breathing for Panic Attacks

The way in which we breathe is very important, so often I'm asked Can Anxiety Cause Breathing Difficulties? Often, anxiety will make us breathe differently and we might not be aware of this. The way in which we breathe can also make anxiety worse. The great thing about breathing is we can take over and try to influence how we want to breathe.

This article will help you

  • Learn how to control your breathing
  • Show you that practicing, especially when you are relaxed, is the key to success

Why is breathing so crucial?

can anxiety cause breathing difficultiesEveryone takes breathing for granted. People think there is no way they can be breathing incorrectly. Unfortunately it’s not true. We all slump in our chairs and at first we feel comfortable and relaxed. But after a while we begin to ache. Sitting in unnatural positions can cause problems. Breathing is similar to this. Breathing very fast over a short period of time is not a problem. Think of the time you were late for the bus and then you saw it coming down the road. You probably ran for the bus stop and felt totally out of breath when you reached the bus stop just in time. When you got on the bus your breathing and heart rate then started to slow down. Your body is designed to cope with short bursts of adrenaline so there is no problem. But if you continually breathe rapidly over a long period of time and you are not moving, then this can cause frightening sensations. This kind of breathing is often referred to as hyperventilation. It’s a normal reaction to a stress response if you have become constantly anxious over something. This kind of reaction will eventually lead to a person becoming ‘sensitized’ to a place, situation or thing.

When a person becomes sensitized they have essentially conditioned their body and mind to react to certain physical and psychological stimuli, with extreme hypersensitivity.

For example, say you don’t like heights. Every time you see a tall building in real life or even just on TV, it brings a reaction of fear physically or emotionally (or maybe both.) Your body will tense up; you will have racing scary thoughts and your breathing will speed up amongst other things.

How do you know if you have become sensitized or are not breathing properly?


There is a quick test you can do. Lie down on your bed and just try to relax as best you can. Please one hand on your diaphragm or your belly button. Place your other hand in the middle of your chest just below your collar bone. Take note of which hand is moving the most. If the hand on your belly button is moving up and down slowly, then you’re breathing OK. If the hand on your chest is moving up and down then you’re not breathing properly. This is important because breathing from your upper chest increases the risk of hyperventilation.

I would especially do this exercise when you are feeling anxious or panicky. Why? Because this is when your breathing is likely to be incorrect. I had a habit of tensing my stomach muscles (like I was expecting a punch around my waistline) when I was feeling anxious or panicky. This naturally caused me to breath via my upper chest. It was almost as if my body was trying everything it could to make me feel anxious. At my worst I was breathing incorrectly all the time. As I got better, I noticed that I was only breathing incorrectly when I felt panicky sensations coming on.

Tip from trenches

You will stand a much better chance of correcting your breathing if you practice when you’re relaxed. You will be able to notice incorrect breathing patterns once you practice diaphragmatic breathing. Chest breathing can then be corrected by taking over your breathing. You will find your breathing will be naturally slower and deeper the more relaxed you are, and the more you start to overcome anxiety. That said, it works the other way as well. If you have a full blown major panic attacks there will be little you can do to control your breathing.

Stand to Attention!

Have you ever be told at school to stand up straight, stomach in and chest out. Although this may look good, it encourages poor breathing and hyperventilation. I’m sure we have been in pubs or shopping and tried to bring in our bellies to make us a look a bit thinner! Well this encourages poor breathing as well.

You have probably noticed that when we exercise we breathe more quickly to give our muscles oxygen. This enables us to exert ourselves, to run away from a situation or to fight (flight or fight response.) In doing this we are relieving our bodies of stress. Our bodies tend to naturally chest breathe when we exercise so that we can get more oxygen more quickly. However if we over breath all the time (ie it becomes a habit) our oxygen level rises to much, and our carbon dioxide level falls too much. You may have seen the classic way to overcome this, often taught in medical books, is to breathe into a paper bag. By breathing back in what you have exhaled (Carbon dioxide Co2), your balancing Oxygen and Co2 to their normal levels. I have to say from my own personal experience it’s much better to treat the cause rather than the symptoms.

Does it matter that I don’t breathe properly?

Yes it does. Why?, because it produces all the unpleasant sensations we become afraid of Exhaustion, Visual problems, cramps, shakes, tingling sensations, chest pains, etc. The problem with hyperventilation is the symptoms are extremely alarming, and cause more symptoms which in turn cause more over breathing and more symptoms. It’s kind of a downward spiral. My overriding memories of hyperventilation were being stuck in meetings at work where I would feel overwhelming sensations for the need to escape, whilst my breathing was very rapid. If you’re sitting, but breathing as if you’re running the London marathon, this means the oxygen levels your building up has nowhere to go but produce horrible feelings. I just use to grit my teeth and try and bear it (totally the wrong thing to do). The worst sensation was probably the heart palpitations which made me think my heart was going to stop and I would die. But that’s enough doom and gloom.

If you’re experiencing the same then I will help you recover from this. I don’t suffer from hyperventilation now and it feels great to breathe deep slowly and deeply. That said, there are many things you will need to incorporate in your life to get your breathing to return to calm state. Diet, exercise, relaxation techniques, etc.

To Conclude - Can anxiety cause breathing difficulties?  Yes it certainly can.


Breathing Techniques

I have read several books on this subject and I would recommend either Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind - The Only Way to Oxygenate Your Brain and Stop Excessive and Useless Thoughts Featuring the Buteyko Breathing Method and Mindfulness orThe Breathing Book: Vitality and Good Health Through Essential Breath Work .  Both tell you the benefits of deep breathing which will help reduce feelings of panic and anxiety, but you can also control your emotions much better if you breath correctly.  If you are after listening to guided breathing through headphones than can find Breathing MP3 Downloads here.

Relaxtion / Hypnosis Cd's - Contrary to what they claim should be used as a relaxation aid rather than any quick fix Thoroughly recommend you read through the description of the Cd to make sure you know what they contain.  Some techniques may work better than others for you, so taylor them to suit your needs.

Hypnosis Cd for Panic and Anxiety Attacks   A very good hypnosis Cd thats especially produced for panic attack sufferers.  The more you use it and apply the techniques the more benefit you will get.
Control Stress : Stop Worrying and Feel Good Now   I have included this in the Cd section but the bulk of the information is in a book format.  Paul Mckenna is one of the most famous hypnotists, and this book/Cd gives sound practical advice on decreasing stress.  The book has lots of techniques and tips which need to be applied and can bring a sense of reality when you might start thinking negative thoughts.

Glen Harrold hypnosis cds Glenn Harrold has produced lots of different Cd's from weight loss to inner clam.  They certainly helped me in my recovery and I would recommend them fully.  If you click on the link you can search through the Cd's he has produced and see if any catch your fancy.

Ultimate Relaxation   A guided meditation by the well known Dr Hilary Jones (you have probably seen him on morning TV).  Contains tips and techniques on relaxation.

Dream Surf   If you like the sound of the ocean then this will be the Cd for you.

Body and Soul - Relaxation: Resting the Mind Reviving the Body If you like just gentle soothing music without any hypnosis, meditation or talking then I recommend this.

You can find the bestselling Relaxation/Anxiety Cd's here.  The most popular Relaxation MP3 Downloads can be found here and you can listen to a preview.

You can find some FREE meditation and relaxtions audios at excelatlife

If you want to record your own relaxation recordings then I have relaxation scripts/exercises you can record yourself.  I good way to do this is record them on your mobile phone and listen to the exercises when you need to.

Meditation books

Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear
Pass Through Panic: Freeing Yourself from Anxiety and Fear [Audiobook] [Audio CD]
Ultimate Relaxation

Other Related Articles

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Prevent Panic Attacks - Challenging the Thoughts which Cause Panic

How to cure Panic Attack Disorder?

How to Cure & Recover From Panic Attacks



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