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Shortness of breath--anxiety or asthma??
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Shortness of breath--anxiety or asthma??

I have chronic shortness of breath that was "diagnosed" by a doctor as asthma.  Problem is, he didn't do any definitive testing--just a lung function test that was within normal limits.  He knew I have panic disorder, and said that there's no way to tell which is causing the shortness of breath.  I have an inhaler that I never use because the albuterol causes jitters (the LAST thing I need).  I get a tightness across my back, and a feeling like there is not enough room in my chest cavity to properly inflate my lungs.  This sensation is only relieved by a thorough yawn, or a really deep breath (very hard to get sometimes).  It also gets worse when I eat.  (Not AFTER, but as I am actually eating, even at the beginning before I am full).  I only wheeze when I am sick.  I don't smoke anymore (not for 1.5 years).  I do cough sometimes--non productive barking cough.  Needless to say, feeling like I can't breathe adequetly brings on panic attacks and anxiety, I just can't figure out which precipitates which.  I don't THINK I am anxious to start with, but, who knows??  Anyone have any imput/suggestions??
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8 Comments Post a Comment
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149087_tn?1258457420
Hey there imcrazy2, I like the name....

I often feel that way too, crazy I mean...lol, yeah well ok, anyways...

First off let me apologize if I sound like I am babbling, I am having a bad day of what I call 'brain or fibro fog' as I have fibromyagia.

Now to your question:  I go through the same thing at times. I can remember when I was a child I had to sit through my younger sisters christmas program thingy in the school gym. (we are talking like 18 years ago. Im 28 now...lol) I could not for the life of me seem to catch my breath. I remember thinking 'man this is sooo boring' because I kept yawning and yawning, but I just could not catch my breath. The harder I tried, the more freaked out I got and the faster my heart started to beat, then I began to sweat. Well at the age of what, like 10 I had no idea what was going on, and I never told anyone because it eventually just stopped. Well here it is many years later and I still go through this and like you it happens to me sometimes also while eating. Only it happens to me as I am eating, its like the food gets stuck or something and blocks my airpassage, which I know it doesnt, but thats what it feels like. Then I catch myself sitting upon the edge of the chair sitting straight as I can trying to take deep breaths to catch my breath. Some time it works sometimes it doesnt. I think its an anxiety attack or a mini panick attack. I have no idea what brings them on, but they sure do suck, and they seem to come at the most inappropriate times.

Just recently, right before christmas, the doctors put me on xanax .5 mg 3 times a day. I dont feel like I need to take it that many times a day, it makes me so tired and forgetful. I mean I was so anxious around christmas this year I took my xanax as prescribed not knowing what it would do to me, and I have lost the memory of christmas eve and christmas day. I remember bits a pieces of it, and thats not a good feeling. So I only take it when I start to feel like I am going into an attack.

I dont really see why people become addicted to xanax either, unless they like to sleep alot, or unless it has a different effect on them. Who knows. Meds work on people in different ways I suppose.

Anyways I got off topic and caught myself babbling, just like I figured I would, damn 'fog moments'. But I have never been diagnosed with asthma, I have been tested, but they say I dont have it, so I am assumming that mine is anxiety, and panic attacks for some underlying reason.

When I start to feel like that like I said I sit up on the edge of the chair, or couch or whatever it is I am sitting on and I will take deep breaths in through my nose and let it out through my mouth slowly. It may feel like you are suffocating or doing lamaze (sp?) breathing, but after a minute or two of doing this it starts to help. I also notice, for me it helps to count. Like breath in through your nose to the count of 5 or 6 and let it out slow through your mouth and count even slower like to 10 or 12. Sounds corney and stupid, thats what I thought when my therapist told me about it, but it actually works for the most part. If you have never tried it go for it, it couldnt hurt any, and if it doesnt work for you, atleast you know you have tried it that way if someone else suggests it to you you can tell them, nope doesnt work for me.

If you do decide to try it and it works, or hell even if it doesnt, let me know what you think ok. I am always popping in here atleast once or twice a day, even though I dont post too often. Good Luck and take care, hope things get better for you. And again I apologize for this being so long and chopped up. :)
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi,

one suggestion I have is to purchase a lung capacity measuring device - you can buy them pretty cheaply online and its possible your local pharmacy sells them also.  This way, you can measure your "normal" lung capacity and  compare it to that when you are feeling short of breath.  If asthma is causing breath shortness, your lung capacity will dimish significantly but if you are having a panic attack it will NOT change (your ability to breath out is not effected during a panic attack - in fact, people tend to hyperventalate during a panic attack and are getting too MUCH oxygen!).
Anyways, this will tell you what is causing your symptoms which will allow you to treat the actual cause.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you for the responses, they really helped!!!  I am going to but a lung capacity thingy!
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Avatar_n_tn
hey, I had the same thing for about a month. Labored breathing, chest pain, frequent yawning, inability to take deep breaths. I think thats caused by severe anxiety. try to breathe from your belly and not ur chest. all best.
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149087_tn?1258457420
Hey that is something I didnt know. I think I just might have to get one of those too, just to see for myself whats going on. Thanks for the info.
Aurora
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Avatar_m_tn
This breathing technique will help very much.Try it, free and easy.
Anulom Vilom - Deep Breath-in through left nostril keeping right nostril closed
then  - Breath-out through right nostril keeping left nostril closed
then   -Deep Breath-in through right nostril keeping left nostril closed
then   - Breath-out through left nostril keeping right nostril closed
and repeat this cycle for upto 15 minutes. Maximum 3 times day.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks, I'll try it!  What do you do if you have chronic sinus congestion?
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi Guys
I have just read this post and I suffer this badly aswell. For the last month I have it once and it lasted a week or so then went away.The I got it about 1.5weeks ago and its here hardcore.  I am so worried. Basically its all i think about in my awkaken hours. I am trainign for a marathon at the moment and am very fit, eat well etc. I suffer with anxiety but I really don't feel stressed. What happens to me is that I thinka bout it constantly and it gets worse. I have to yawn or deep breathe every 4-5 minutes and worse when bsuy at work etc. When running I am ok, until I think about it, I sleep really well and this makes me think it cannot be something wrong with my lungs..It thinks becoming a habit too. I get the tight chest shoulders and get very figity aswell.
Its awful.The way i describe is suffocting, kinda like if u swim underwater for as long as possible and when u come up. My chiro thinks its becasue I have always been a anaerobic athlete and not aerobic(long distance) and he reckons i am just trying to get mo o2. I am not convinced. He says its not anxiety but everything I read says it is.
I am seeing my GP next week. Hopefully she can help. I am 33 and fit and healthy but have had alot of deaths and illness strike people around me in the last 2years. I live in a differen state to all relative as hubby in Military and ahve bought a house, and got married all in the last 3years. If that is not enough to cause anxiety i don't know what is.  All I know its affecting everythig I do cause I am so worried. Anyone feel as crazy as me???
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Avatar_n_tn
To answer your last question, yes!  Sometimes it helps to know we are not alone.  I hope your doc is knowledgeable about anxiety!
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Avatar_n_tn
HEY I AM NEW TO THIS BUT WHEN I CLICK ON YOUR LAST POST I CANNOT SEE WHAT U HAVE WRITTEN BACK TO MY COMMENT. CAN ANYONE HELP?
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Avatar_n_tn
I moved to Tennessee (from California) in September and have also experienced this shortness of breath thing.  I initially thought it was anxiety, but I have also considered it may be allergies- as there is a lot of pollen in the air here.  Especially now (April) that the Spring is here, it has gotten worse.  I am still not sure what it is, and would prefer not to take anything if I can avoid it.  I do not have the other symptoms involved with swallowing, but just a hard time catching a deep breath.  I am also in good shape (a distance runner) and have been an athlete my whole life.  I eat healthy too.  The breathing from the stomache seems to help a bit.  Thanks for the advice.  Nice to know I have company in the non-breathing world...take care!
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Avatar_n_tn
I've had shortness of breath on and off for about 3 months now I've seen a GP and they sent me to have my lungs x rayed because I am an avid surfer and often take beatings at the hands of the ocean but everything turned out fine. So my doc suggested that I may have anxiety but I don't feel particularly anxious or stressed although I've lost a lot of relatives and friends in the past year, I think this is causing my anxiety. I've gained more control over it now and am trying to beat it without zoloft. I still have my bad and good days though. Has anyone had these symptoms in the past and fully recovered? If so please post about it. Its good to know there's other going through the same problems. Take care all
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Avatar_n_tn
hallo all,,
difficult to breathe, cant talk...mean no sound,,, but this comes at night when i go to bed,,what is this..need advise
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Avatar_f_tn
hello.
i have had this shortness of breath since i can remember. i was at least 6 it might be due to trauma of an accident i was ran over at that age and i always had shortness of breath.. i never had allergies then but i think i am developing them now i still have to see an allergist to determine if i do or not. but this past year i have been getting symptoms of allergies off and on. anyways it may be due to anxiety i started getting anxiety in middle school and also concentrating on your breathing too much it could all be pyschological. just take your mind off of it and stay busy bc the more you actuallly think about it the worse it gets!! Thats how it has always been for me. Also it worsens when i am sick or have caffeine also when i am in a sitting position. I have had all kinds of tests done myself chest x rays , breathing test , heart specialists, evrerything.. still test because everyone is different and it may be something else causing your shortness of breath but most of the time especially if you have had it for a long longg time like me it may just be due to chronic hyperventilation syndrome. which you breathe too much oxygen and panic. or anxiety. I have always had it and its been maybe 20 years comes and goes and sometimes chest pain but it has never been anything to worry about bc i am obviously still here. hope this comforts you!! : ) also might add that i have to yawn too to get that satisfaction of a full breath. Take a shower .. go outside or lay a pillow under your back it helps a little.
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Avatar_m_tn
i read your post and wanted to say thank you for posting.
I was sick with the flu for 3 weeks and that was one month ago. I had shortness of breath then and it sparked my anxiety and the vicious cycle begins.
I went for 1 week with no problem then had anxiety when returning to work and I am an RN in an ER, high stress! Then while at work the breathing issue started and got worse.
it ebbs and flows. The more I think about it the worse it gets.
I started a steroid inhaler but it takes a week to work. I can not use the beta agonist inhalers, Albuterol, as it raises my heart rate too much and that makes me anxious and I actually have to take heart meds to slow my rate.
chest x rays are normal and even when I am  having the shortness of breath the DR does not hear any wheezing and my oxygen levels are normal.
It is exhausting. I was on the treadmill this morning and had no problem at all. driving to work i was getting a little anxious and the breathing difficulty started. there are times when I am sitting calmly and it starts.
But it feels like I can not breath deep in to my lungs and then I yawn and sometimes I can fully yawn and sometimes not.
it is that band across the chest feeling for sure.
I am glad i am not alone but I am sorry we are all dealing with this.

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Avatar_f_tn
Hi, I don't know if this will make much sense but im just going to go for it anyways and explain the best I can. I have this wheezing issue that happens when im done running every time, but I feel like if I get it checked by a doctor they wont be able to tell bc my breathing will be normal at the time so im confused. I don't know how the doctor will be able to see what is wrong with me if I am not wheezing at that time im getting checked out.  when I go the doctor  and he/she is going to ask me to breathe and the wheezing will most likely not happen because it only starts when im done running, get it? I am just so confused and sound all over the place. anyone know what is wrong or what the doctor will do or say ?
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Avatar_m_tn
Hey there. I've had the shortness of breath symptoms for about a year now myself. How it had originally started for me was in Feb-13 I started getting the breathing issues, not feeling like I was getting a full breath even though I knew I was, it would make my lungs feel as if I had held my breath for 3 minutes. Painful and chest pains came with it as well. I was still a smoker then so I started worrying about that. After a few days of that I went to Urgent Care and they ran some tests, did an EKG said I may be dehydrated and my sister is a nurse so I ran it by her and she said that could have been a possibility. Well no more than two days later I had my first Anxiety attack. My whole body went numb for about 45 minutes, I couldn't stop slowly rocking myself back and forward while sitting, it helped ease the anxiousness. But I didn't know that's what it was. While at the ER they gave me an MRI xrayed my Lungs and Heart and gave medicine for asthma, all came back with no problems, no tumors, no leisures, no asthma, and they ran my blood work, I WAS NOT dehydrated, nor was I diabetic, or with any sort of weird disease/virus, the doc told me to see my GP. It was my GP that told me it was most likely anxiety, gave me xanax to try for a month. Worked, but didn't work, still had about 8-9 anxiety attacks between Feb-Apr. So started seeing a therapist, talked baout life, she said my new job could be a massive stressor, so i switched jobs and since then have not had a massive anxiety attack, BUT I still get the shortness of breath about every other month for a week. I take Busperone and Xanax occasionally while it happens, and it helps out a ton, the Buspirone is a half tablet and I will sometimes take .5 mG of Xanax a few minutes later if the Buspirone doesn't do the fix.

All in all I believe it is directly related to the anxiety, breathing into a paper bag helps because it really is just you having too much oxygen, hyperventilating, but it takes me about ten minutes of that to stop it. When I'm at work and the shortness of breath is there I can forget about it while I'm busy, so it definitely rules out the asthma, plus I sleep like a baby, and have been smoke free for over a month. So try asking your doctor about Buspirone, it works, you are really suppose to take the dose twice a day no matter what, but I take half a pill when I'm feeling the anxiousness, and that works for me, effects folks differently.
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