We have seen that Anxiety is your mind and body’s heightened response to some threat.
In case of anxiety and panic attacks, that threat is always an imagined one.
If you are an anxiety sufferer the chances are high that you might be having imagined irrational fears which are not real.
Sufferers of Panic Attacks and Generalized anxiety disorder commonly have a lot of concern for their health and are constantly thinking that there is something wrong with their body. Like them, you might also be looking or expecting some health issue to be eventually found out, even though the doctors have assured you that you are perfectly fine. The fear that you have suffocation problem is one of the things.
It is actually shortness of breath
The fear of suffocation which troubles you every now and then is actually the shortness of breath which you feel during the anxiety attacks. Shortness of breath is a very common symptom of anxiety disorders like Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Panic disorder and Phobias.
We will see how to cope with shortness of breath during your anxiety and/or panic attacks. Along with that, we will see how to prevent it from occurring.
How does shortness of breath occur: It’s causes
Just remember the moment when a panic attack starts suddenly. During that moment you get a sudden intense lightning bolt like sensation in your chest and upper belly together. The next thing happens is, after that sensation the very first breath you take is often very rapid and shallow. It is the breath of dread. It is followed by more breaths which go in the same manner. So looking at that, the overall rhythm of your respiration cycle is imbalanced.
The next thing happens is, after that sensation the very first breath you take is often very rapid and shallow. It is the breath of dread. It is followed by more breaths which go in the same manner. So looking at that, the overall rhythm of your respiration cycle is imbalanced.
During the course of this time of 2-3 minutes, you have taken more oxygen in your blood and more carbon dioxide has been expelled out by your lungs. So there is a considerable difference between the levels of these two gases in your blood.
This is called as over breathing.
That is simply breathing more than enough. The shortness of breath (or feeling of suffocation as you say)is the sensation you have because of over breathing. This condition is called hyperventilation and it is even experienced by healthy people also.
Two ways breathing occurs: through the chest and through the diaphragm. Anxiety sufferers have a habit to breathe with chest and not with the diaphragm. This shallow chest breathing causes shortness of breath.
The orange colored is the diaphragmatic muscle- the diaphragm
If you are already anxiety sensitive person that makes you anxious and panicky instantly. You feel that these sensations and symptoms are dangerous. You interpret them as the indicators of some underlying dangerous health problem!
Consequently, you panic more. It causes you to breathe more, hyperventilate more and have more and more sensation of shortness of breath. This is called vicious cycle of anxiety and panic where you feel there is no way out.
But remember, during all this, there is no deficiency of oxygen in your blood. In fact, your blood is flooded with oxygen to serve your muscles and get you in vigorous action.
Also, you breathed well and there is no sign that your lungs didn’t perform well. Actually, they performed very well. That’s why hyperventilation occurred. Isn’t it?
Hyperventilation occurring due to anxiety is not dangerous
When you hyperventilate you feel breathlessness or have the “suffocation feeling.”
Your body is not in danger. This is just anxiety and panic.
The fact is that there is an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Carbon dioxide is not the life-supporting gas for our bodies. But, its proportion in the body is essential for the normal functioning of the body.
Like its excess is harmful to us, its lack also produces some sensations in the body.
What is Homeostasis?
It is the process which restores the normal levels of respiratory gases in the blood. It acts contrary to hyperventilation and brings your body back to the normal state. It is a physiological process which is automatically controlled by the brain-body conjecture.
You can speed up this process by doing belly breathing and taking guided relaxation.
Dr. David Carbonell of anxietycoach.com, explains the method of diaphragmatic breathing for controlling anxiety and panic attacks effectively:
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