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Avatar universal

Feeling of suffocation


I'm a 23 year old male. For the last 3 years, I've been constantly feeling like I'm suffocating. It's hard to describe the feeling, and it sounds pretty horrible, but I'm trying to lead a normal life. Obviously I've been to the doctor, they did chest x-ray and blood tests and I've been back for regular checkups. According to the tests, everything is fine with me. I have other symptoms that are characteristic of anxiety, and this was the diagnosis that was given to me.
Sometimes the suffocation feeling is mild and almost unnoticeable, sometimes it's very strong -- all of today I've been feeling like it, and part of yesterday. Does anyone have any idea what could be causing this? It's starting to drive me crazy. I can feel like I'm suffocating even if I'm not feeling anxious, I can be in a good mood, out with friends, or whatever, and it's still there. It happened suddenly one night 3 years ago and since then it's never fully gone away.
The days that I feel very strongly like I'm suffocating, I notice my nose whistles sometimes. It takes a while for the feeling to go away; usually by the time I go to bed, the next day I wake up ok.
I'd really appreciate any help, I can't keep living with this, and the doctors say I'm fine, but I haven't had anything but blood work and a chest x ray.

Thank you
27 Responses
Avatar universal
I have the exact same problem. I am still in the process of trying figure otu exactly what is causing this. I have had this issue for about 2 weeks now but I have had it before but it went away on its own. So far I have tried inhalers for asthma without much relief. Today I was prescribed medication for Acid reflux, so we'll see... Good luck! It is hard to even get doctors to take this seriously. Hope this helps. I'll keep checking back.
144586 tn?1284669764
Have you been to a pulmonary specialist or a pulmonary team at a teaching hospital? The x-ray wouldn't show much. I don't know what is wrong with you, but someone should be paying more attention.
Avatar universal
First off, I hope you are feeling some relief from your awful symptoms.  I hope you are continuing to see your doctors until you find some answers!  For the past year I have been experiecing a heaviness in my stomach/chest/sometimes throat and it makes me feel like I'm mildly suffocating on a constant basis - it's horrible.  Like you, certain days are better than others.  I do know that when I am standing and esp. when I'm still, I feel worse.  It's like suddenly my breathing feels so heavy and I get lightheaded.  All this sounds horrific, but I am actually functioning on a somewhat normal basis everyday - except that I don't feel that great.  I have been searching for the cause of all of this.  I had a chest x ray and it was clear.  I thought it was a gastrointestinal issue (like a hernia of some sort)  but an endoscopy showed only mild gastritis (inflammation of the stomach).  So now I'm thinking it may have something to do with my blood pressure (orthostatic intolerance) or plain anxiety.  But like you, I feel it even when I'm not anxious ... and if anything this whole breathing thing is making me anxious not the other way around!

Avatar universal

It's been a long time since you made your post. I've just wanted to say that I cope with the very same problem as you are. I have those symptoms (constant feeling like I'm suffocating - same days less and some days worse). I've also been to many doctors and did many tests (heart, lungs, blood tests and so on) but, as my doctor says, everything is O.K. with me. A went to psychistrist for some time and she gave me some drugs (she said i had anxiety problem) but it didn't help me much.I really don't know how to help myself.

How is your problem now? Is it  better, is it worse?
Avatar universal
i've had it for so long that i've kind of learned to ignore it. sometimes it's actually better.. glad to know i'm not alone though. maybe it is anxiety.
Avatar universal
Any  good news?
Avatar universal
I had this too.  I have atypical asthma where I don't wheeze.  The asthma affects primarily the smallest airways in my lungs.  It became chronic because my doctors didn't understand it or have me on the right medication, in spite of being diagnosed 15 years ago.  Eventually I developed chronic shortness of breath and a feeling of suffocation.  After a lot of testing they found that it had affected my heart.
Bottom line -- it is not normal to have this feeling.  You should have a spirometry or pulmonary function test to rule out lung disease, and a cardio workup.  Don't let anyone tell you it is psychological until they have done thorough testing.   Once they figure out the underlying disease there are medications that help.   Also, if the disease is advanced or severe there are palliative medications.  Ativan or other benzodiazepines can help with anxiety from difficulty breathing, and codeine suppresses the feeling of suffocation.
Avatar universal
have you had a PFT test?  my FEV1 levels are in the 60s usually in the low 70s and the FEV1/FVC ratio may show airway remodeling.  
I just don't feel comfortable with my FEV1 being so low.
I've tried almost every inhaler and nebulizer treatment but am still wheezing for 11 weeks now.  finally after another course of prednisone at 40mg/day I had improvement in my FEV1 to 82 but I still suffer from terrible sleep apnea

how do you know if you need regular prednisone or is that a bad idea.  the only side effects I've read about are bone loss, sugar, adrenal atrophy?
Avatar universal
hi how are you now? I was reading this thread and your comment caught my attention. If i understood you right, initially you have an anxiety and later it already affected your heart?  right now i am sure that i have anxiety and sometimes i feel like my heart beat is irregular and i will feel suffocating right after i realized it..

i just want to know what happened to you now? I am afraid that later on i will really have a real heart disease because of anxiety
Avatar universal
Thank you so much for all your comments and advises. I am 25 and it suddenly started a month back. The doctor felt its from deprivation of humidity, asthma or allergy
medication and inhaler has no results. Trying to receive a PFT but apt eith doctor takes too long to receive and I am feeling anxious from having difficulty inhaling. I often cough to open my airway and its just awful sapping me of energy. Hopefully, thr specialist can help me soon. But it does not appear as doctors take this seriously. I am afraid to develop anything chronic from misdiagnosis. I hope there is some medication thst can reverse the effects. I dont feel anxiety and I am feeling tirre of hearing that I am anxious, if anything, the feeling of suffocation would make anyone anxious! >_<
Avatar universal
These feelings are terrifying, I've had them now for years, I even called out an ambulance one night because I thought I was going to die from suffocation and like you guys, doctors can't find anything wrong other than anxiety problems so I'd definitely say it's a mental condition. A nurse has told me to try and control my breathing by taking deep breaths, holding it for a second or two then slowly breathing out, sometimes this helps, sometimes it doesn't.
Definitely needs some research as people don't understand how devastating this can be. Good luck to all of you guys.
Avatar universal
i too have this feeling of suffocation i have a tight pulling sensation on my chest too with no pain just heaviness sometimes in my stomach too ,
im 22 female with no previous health problems accept anxiety,asthma and hyper acidity i got diagnosed with the hyper acidity after i was having chest pains and shortness of breath like getting out of breathe fast before all this started in october 2014 i started getting the suffocation feeling it lasts a second and sometimes can last a hour but its on and off it sometimes is full on or very mild i have had around 10 ecgs and heart ultrasound also holter monitor which im still waiting results for the holter but this is crippling me i cant concentrate on anything else because i dont know what it is i have been searching for answers for the 3 months i have had it i rember it happening once in 2012 in my friends car but it never happened again until october it happened in my sleep last night too and its really scary ! before it started like this it was a constant out of breathe feeling hope somebody finds answers  i don't feel its relataed to anxiety although the doctors are pretty sure it is did you ever find out what was causing it ? hope your ok .
Avatar universal
Hi ,

I am 32 years old . I also have developed this odd feeling of suffocating especially it feels like it begins at throat somewhere in wind pipe. It started couple of months ago suddenly when I was in sleep and suddenly woke up to a suffocation and temporary coughing..for few seconds. .this happened couple of nights but I felt completely normal after a minute or so and slept back and woke up completely normal the next day. However few days ago I felt suffocating and same feeling but this time it occurred during the evening when I was casually sitting at home . And this time I also felt dizzininess for that moment ...it went on to happen for 2 or 3 times in a break of 10 tp 15 minutes and I immediately saw a doctor that same evening . What my local doctor found was a high blood pressure reading (110 / 177) ..he suspected that suffocation and dizziness could be due to high BP but ge wasn't sure and asked me to get Lipid profle , CBC , and some kidney related tests done ..All the tests appeared normal including cholesterol levels ..I saw another doctor today and he has written few more tests like ECG , 2d doppler and an X RAY...I personally feel that this condition or problem may also be due to acidity (I do have acidity problem and I drink lot's of tea which I m sure adds to acidity problem )..I have never had this problem before and I guess I have never had BP problem also...mu doctor whom I visited today didn't have an answer to my question whether bp is causing this problem (of feeling suffocated and a little dizzy also (dizzininess is not always accompanied but occasionally ) ) or this problem is causing BP to go high ?
Hey SanjayC, how ya doing? I actually went through the same things you said. I hope you are feeling better! Did u ever figure out what was causing it or how to alleviate it?
Avatar universal
Hi there,

I just thought I would let any people who experience suffocation and immediate shortness of breath, know about a condition / disease called RADS - it's Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome. Sadly it can mimic asthma and it can be difficult for Doctors to diagnose it and from my personal experience - when I was prescribed asthma medication, it sadly made my breathing worse.... which was terrifying because I took the medication because I was having trouble breathing .. so you can imagine how horrifying it was to have even LESS air!  

Anyhow, if you have gone from having a normal respiratory system and never had asthma - and then what may feel like over night you cough a lot and become super sensitive to  things like: petrol fumes - your laundry and washing powder - perfume - aftershave etc etc. then you may have RADS.

Please check the web site  RADS Foundation -    radsfoundation.net
as there is a lot of information to explain how you can get RADS and a support network.

Know you are not alone and there is support out there and information  and lots of things you can do to help yourself.

I know .. because I have it and live with it every day.

All the best to everyone and I hope you all have good air days and I hope this information is helpful.

Avatar universal
Guys m going thrw the same phase, I went to  a doctor, he said its the beginning of depression, leave all the mental stress behind, hit the gym, stay calm, every thing will b fine
Are you kidding me. If you cannot breathe and your yawning and coughing most of the day how are you supposed to hit the gym? I&#39;m not being a smart-*** I&#39;m just curious?
It's possible. I started exercising by running and it didn't make the symptoms worse. I did that for several years. I do mostly weightlifting now although I'm gonna get back into running again, hopefully soon.
Avatar universal
I call my symptoms of suffication "episodes" because the sensation at first was so hard to explain. Mine started at night and when laying on my side. I wouod suddenly wake up feeling short of breath and yet I wasn't gasping for air or breathing any differently and yet I was feeling light headed.
It used to happen once a month, then once a week and now 3-years on it happens most nights and 2 or 3 times a night! Almost as if oxygenated blood wasn't getting to my brain.

The first thing my doctor tried 2 years ago was acid reflux medication, but this achieved nothing.

As a type 1 diabetic,  I am aware that I have higher risks of heart problems, I asked my doctor to see a Cardiologist. After some ECG tests on a running machine, they detected something was wrong with my heart. Months later an Angiogram detected slight narrowing to one of my heart arteries, but it was only narrowed by 50% and apparently not the cause. Later a pressure wire in the blockage confirmed that threre was no significant change in blood pressure around the narrowing and months later again an MRI scan with contrast dye showed no significant problems, though a central heart chamber was taking two pumps to fill with blood instead of one pump. This was dismissed as nothing to worry about.

Next step was to look at my lungs. A CT scan with contrast dye showed no issue. Last summer I paid out £500 to go private and have an MRI brain scan with contrast to check the blood flow to the brain is okay and it was!

I also went private to check my aorta artery was okay with an ultra sound and again it was.

My doctor suggested that it might be stress, anxiety or depression! It is true that I was suffering due to this problem. Worry and sleep deprivation mainly, caused by the episodes,  not the other way around. Anyway, willing to try anything, I agreed to go on a 6 week Cognitive Behaviour Therepy course and all they concluded was mild stress and anxiety caused by my symptoms!

My symptoms continue to worsen and the only relief I can get during the night is from a strong pain killer called Tramadol, which allows me to sleep again for 4 hours. Why a pain killer helps, I have no idea.

In the mornings, wake up from these suffication episodes feeling light headed and with mild headaches that last for 2 or 3 hours after getting up, whether I have taken Tramadol in the night or not!

All very frustrating. I know something will happen one day where it is either diagnosed or I simply fail to wake up because the symptoms continue to worsen each month! Chris
The best way to overcome this is with regular exercise. I've been feeling much better since I started exercising. Hit the gym lawyer up and delete Facebook.
Pls don't use tremadol with out any pains just for sake of sleeping.

Pls see a good pschyciatris he will treat your anxiety or sleep related issues.
Avatar universal
hello. I have the same problems as u all do. some days are better than others. like today I feel very tired and feel like I can breath. I have also been to the doctors and they say everything is fine with me. just I have anxiety. my problem is I don't feel anxious I just get weird feelings in my chest and feel like I can't breath. I have also noticed that my blood pressure goes up and down.. it's a scary thing I'm just like I guys. I wish I could get some relief and some answers
Avatar universal
Yeah it happens to me too, i feel like i can't breathe and it's s really painful not physically , but trying to take deep breaths and still feeling like u need more oxygen i went to a doctor and did some tests but they said that everything's normal :( I really dunno wt to do
Avatar universal
Honestly, there's only two explanations for these seemingly tragic events...actually three.

The first is you may have a sinus infection or allergy related symptoms to the season which will cause your throat to feel irritated and inflamed, this can also lead to mucus falling into your windpipe just a bit at a time causing your throat to react as if it were swelling up(same thing happens with water when you choke on it, you'll get a swelled tight throat reaction).

The second is your throat could be dropping a little low from inflammation from your nasal passages or from an anxiety reaction and causing a tickle in the back of your throat feeling like an infinite choking event (everything is temporary, remember that).

The third, you possibly could be suffering from food that went down the wrong pipe after eating and noticing the little bits that many people don't feel or believe will dissolve. These bits often sit in our mouth and slide down our throat without notice catching us off guard, making us choke, feel like we can't breathe for seconds (at max a minute), or even feel as if we'll die due to losing feeling in some of our limbs.

Actually, I'm sorry you guys there is a forth one, possibly tonsillitis can cause you to suffocate and feel as if you can't breathe (usually one side or both of your tonsils can get enlarged and make it hard to breathe), it can get difficult but there are plenty of remedies to use at home for any of your symptoms, just search on the web or ask around.

All personal experience, honestly I've gotten tired of going to doctors and started using the Internet which can save any one thousands of dollars. Hang in there ladies and gentlemen you'll all be fine, just keep a strong positive mindset.
Avatar universal
Please can anyone help me with what I'm going through? Big Time! shortness of breath, 2,coughing 3, yawning constantly. When I wake up in the morning I feel great. This gets worse as the day goes on. I feel like I'm losing my mind. Am I dying? What is wrong with me?
Please help me. I'm a fairly intelligent person. This is not all in my head. Trust me on that. I am dealing with a lot of stress in my life. I'm raising my granddaughter which she is 6. My 29 year old son lives at home. My husband is 64 and does not get along with our 29 year old son. My husband caters to every whim that our six year old granddaughter has. He doesn't make her accountable for any of her actions. Maybe this could be stress. I just feel lost.  Sorry for telling you all of my problems.  I'm just trying to link all of this together somehow. Please don't think this is in my head. I am just so scared. And I am 59 years old and I weigh a 139 lbs. So my weight is normal age I can't help that. LOL.....  I'm trying to keep a great outlook on life. But it is so hard when I can't socialize outside of the house because I am petrified that I will stop breathing or some crazy thing will happen. Because like I said, shortness of breath, coughing, and yawning constantly.

       Please Help Me!! ☹
Avatar universal
I just wanted to tell you that I feel your pain. This is absolutely horrible. I hope the best for you.
Avatar universal
Im feeling the same. Did u ever figure out what it was?
Avatar universal
Even I am facing the same problem. While I was trying to diagnose the disease from internet, I stumbled upon this thread.
I've been to few reputed doctors but all of them failed to understand.

One thing I noticed about my problem is that cool weather helps me a lot. Infact room temperature of the range of 16 degrees makes me feel comfortable while breathing.

Kindly report your observations.

You can mail me on ***@****. I'm sure we can find some solution
Avatar universal
Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still alive. I have felt a lot better once I started exercising regularly. I believe it really was mostly anxiety. I'm still in good health and 33 years old now...
Avatar universal
i have the same problem as of now... im 15 and i already told my parents but didnt take me seriously. i described the suffocation as light strangulation and it started when we went up the mountain during the vacation. i already complained of suffocation during the trip up the mountain. my mother said this is because air is thinner on higher altitudes. im convinced and i believe it would take time for me to adapt. after two days at the mountain, we went home and i felt like strangled at random times. i have slight breathing difficulties and i think this is because my lungs are still adapting to sudden changes in altitude but failed. im back home away from any mountains and i still feel slightly suffocated at random times. i dont know what to do, considering that my parents take this suffocation lightly. however it has been more than a month since the hike and the suffocation still goes on.
Avatar universal
Hey man I feel the same way out of somewhere I woke up and by noon I was so scared I thought I was dy8ng I went to the hospital and they told me I was ok I told my parents there like it's nothing to big and i kept telling them and they finnaly took me to get blood samples and x rays and I was so happy but devastated when I heard they found no problems Ithis pain is so unbearable I can't enjoy life like I used to.i currently went to a acupuncture place and told him how I feel and he told me I needed to lose weight and iv been excersising yo see if I would really get better hopefully you get better and everyone else .No one should have to bear this horrible thing.):
Avatar universal
Chest xray, is useless...

If you have had dyspnea this long...

You need v/q with spect.



Stess echo

Right heart cath

Youd be surprised how many things are misdiagnosed.
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