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

Shortness of Breath Anxiety Symptoms

Shortness of Breath Anxiety Symptoms description:

The shortness of breath anxiety 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 or pass out.

Or for no apparent reason, you feel out of breath and 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 shortness of breath symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel a shortness of breath once and a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

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

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

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

This shortness of breath symptom can seem more disconcerting when undistracted or when trying to rest or go to sleep.

What causes the shortness of breath anxiety symptoms?

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

Behaving anxiously activates the stress response. The stress response immediately causes specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

Part of the stress response changes include increasing heart rate, respiration, and tightening the body’s muscles so that it is better equipped to deal with a threat. These changes can cause a shortness of breath feeling.

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can exhibit similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. This shortness of breath symptom is an example of why the body can experience symptoms simply from being overly stressed.

How to get rid of the shortness of breath anxiety symptoms?

When this feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As the body recovers from the active stress response, this shortness of breath feeling should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this shortness of breath feeling is caused by persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has recovered from its overly stressed state, this feeling will completely subside. Therefore, the shortness of breath anxiety 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 shortness of breath anxiety symptoms feeling. Yes, this shortness of breath anxiety symptoms feeling can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, the shortness of breath anxiety symptoms will completely disappear.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including the shortness of breath anxiety symptoms, why anxiety symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, 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 September 10, 2017.

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