All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 27 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Short of Breath Stress

Short of Breath Stress Symptoms description:

The short of breath stress symptoms are often described as:

It can also seem like you have to force yourself to breathe in fear that if you don't, you'll stop breathing altogether.

Or for no apparent reason, you feel out of breath, find yourself desperately gasping for air, or find yourself doing an unusual amount of yawning in an attempt to catch your breath.

It also may feel like you are so out of breath that you have to gasp for air or that you can't breathe deep enough.

This short of breath stress symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you might feel short of breath once and a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

This short of breath stress symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This short of breath stress symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

This short of breath stress symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This short of breath stress symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

This short of breath stress symptom can seem more disconcerting when undistracted, when resting, or when trying to go to sleep.

Why does stress cause the short of breath symptoms?

Because there are many medical conditions that can cause stress-like symptoms, including feeling short of breath, we recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor to ensure nothing medical is causing them. If your doctor concludes your short of breath stress symptoms are caused by stress, you can be confident that there isn't another medical cause.

Stress causes specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that enhance the body's ability to deal with challenges. Part of these stress changes include increasing heart rate, respiration, and tightening the body’s muscles so that it is better equipped to deal with adversity. These changes can a shortness of breath feeling.

When stress occurs occasionally, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes stress brings about. When stress occurs too frequently and/or persistently, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can cause the body to remain in a semi-stressed state. Feeling short of breath is an example of how the body can behave simply from being overly stressed.

Yes, feeling short of breath from stress is very common.

How to get rid of the short of breath stress symptoms?

Reducing your body’s stress and giving it ample time to recover will eliminate the body’s overly stressed state, which will eliminate stress symptoms, such as feeling short of breath.

When the body has recovered from its overly stressed state, this feeling will completely subside. Therefore, the short of breath stress symptoms needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can accelerate the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about the short of breath stress symptoms. Yes, feeling short of breath can be unsettling and even bothersome at times. But again, when your body has recovered from its overly stressed state, the short of breath stress symptoms will completely disappear.

For a more detailed explanation about stress symptoms including feeling short of breath, why stress symptoms can persist, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated January 10, 2017.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/therapy for problematic anxiety and its symptoms, including the stress symptom short of breath.