I have been having a lot of difficulty breathing and chest pain recently and although my health anxiety kicks in and I want to think that there is something wrong with my lungs, I know that it is my anxiety that is causing these symptoms.
It IS terrible though and a very tricky thing to correct once you become focused on your breathing. I found some very interesting information on one site about breathing and hyperventilation which I will post below for anyone interested. But, for those of you who experience this how do you regain control of your breath once you feel like your gasping for air???
I am currently on mat leave and went to a celebration at my school yesterday... well seeing fellow staff members, children and families caused me to have a full blown attack and I was having a terrible time breathing!!!!! It is embarrassing, but I went into the washroom for a short time to regain control. It is also awful trying to hide your feeling from others and trying to put on a "happy" face when inside your freaking out!
Here is the info....http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/symptoms/respiratory-problems
Respiration issues with anxiety tend to be related to the type of anxiety you experience. Many of them are also perceived, but not an actual problem – meaning there isn't anything wrong with your lungs or heart, but there is a sensation that makes it seem like something is wrong. Make sure you've taken my anxiety test if you're new to the site.
Anxiety actually changes your breathing habits. It's not clear how or why exactly people learn to breathe differently when they suffer from anxiety, but there are several issues at play:
Anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight system, which pumps adrenaline into your blood stream. This can cause your breathing to speed up as a result, which in turn causes some of the issues that we'll discuss momentarily.
Anxiety can also cause you to think too much about your breathing, which makes you breathe inefficiently. This actually has many of the same effects as breathing quickly, but without necessarily speeding up each breath.
That latter point is where a lot of the confusion tends to arise. When you think about your breathing, your breathing no longer becomes an automatic process. You temporarily make it manual, which means that you're the one deciding how much to breathe and how fast.
People think they need much more air than they do, so they tend to take deeper breaths than their body needs. This has the same effect as breathing too quickly, both of which can cause an issue known as hyperventilation.
What is Hyperventilation?
Hyperventilation is the primary cause of most respiratory problems from anxiety. The word itself means "over-breathing." Schools teach that your body turns oxygen to carbon dioxide and then gets rid of it, but most schools do not teach that carbon dioxide is actually something your body needs. Many of the processes in your body rely on the right carbon dioxide balance in order to operate.
When you breathe too quickly, the problem isn't too much oxygen – it's too little carbon dioxide. Your body essentially breathes out its carbon dioxide before it has a chance to make more, causing your blood cells to become over-oxygenated.
Hyperventilation is responsible for a number of different problems, most notably chest pains, lightheadedness, and rapid heartbeat. But it also causes several issues that relate to respiratory distress:
Trouble Breathing Sensation – Even though hyperventilation is too much oxygen, the response by the body is to feel as though you're not getting enough oxygen. This paradoxical effect is often a problem, because the person that is hyperventilating responds by trying to take deeper breaths, which makes hyperventilation worse. This is one of the reasons that people develop panic attacks, because they continue to hyperventilate more and more and experience a gradual worsening of symptoms.
Inability to Expand Chest/Need to Yawn – A similar problem that is directly related to the sensation of struggling to breathe is a feeling as though you really need to yawn, but finding that when you start you're unable to expand your chest for the full yawn. This makes it feel like something is wrong with your lungs, even though in reality you simply don't need the air.