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What causes severe asthma attacks while suffering from anxiety?

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Posted on Wed, 25 May 2016
Question: Other account needs to be used so here is a second thread.

As I fret with gad and the thoughts it generates, I try to find answers to my created or actual illnesses I have and are they acute or are they correctable. When did they begin and why did I not see them when they first started. I hope that doing this will find relief and put me on a path to feeling better. It doesn't seem to help feel better but I do sense that this has been something I've dealt with my entire life

I continually speak about "I realize that my PFTs say no lung damage, don't worry of copd or asthma ". Then I go on about a sensation I have. I guess I am trying to understand the effects of anxiety. I never indicate that the breathing issue is a problem. Most of the waking hours right now as I write that I wonder if it is stress caused and that how I deal with it makes it a persisting problem.

The body does a number of things when overly stressed and when that stress becomes constant and never gets back to a calm state.

I mentioned before that taking in a breath is very limited. I feel tight at chest and when it stops its at a point that has a rib pressing discomfort. I ask myself if this is a sensation of chest tightness from airways blocked because of asthma. What would severe asthma be like.

I am reclining for sleep. I am gonna talk my body out of the tension it has n certain areas then ponder why I can't overcome this.
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Answered by Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe (3 hours later)
Brief Answer:
Private Consultation

Detailed Answer:
I'll add a few notes here to elaborate on my last post, and to further answer some issues you raise here.

Anxiety can sometimes make asthma attack feel worse, but anxiety never directly impacts the functioning of the lungs. In other words, anxiety does not cause airway inflammation, swelling, tightening, or any of that. Anxiety DOES light up the part of the brain, the amygdala, that creates a fear response, and this response includes the sensation of not being able to breathe. The evolutionary reason for this is that when a saber-tooth tiger attacked us as cavemen, this fight-or-flight response would make us feel short of breath thus stimulating more breathing to oxygenate the muscles in our attempt to flee. This circuit is overactive in you -- I don't think any saber-tooth tigers are after you. But the response is the same -- and you have learned to focus on your inability to take a giant breath as a problem, possibly COPD. In fact, this is anxiety playing tricks on your mind, not affecting your lungs at all.

Dr. Sheppe
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Sonia Raina
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Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe

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Practicing since :2014

Answered : 2240 Questions

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What causes severe asthma attacks while suffering from anxiety?

Brief Answer: Private Consultation Detailed Answer: I'll add a few notes here to elaborate on my last post, and to further answer some issues you raise here. Anxiety can sometimes make asthma attack feel worse, but anxiety never directly impacts the functioning of the lungs. In other words, anxiety does not cause airway inflammation, swelling, tightening, or any of that. Anxiety DOES light up the part of the brain, the amygdala, that creates a fear response, and this response includes the sensation of not being able to breathe. The evolutionary reason for this is that when a saber-tooth tiger attacked us as cavemen, this fight-or-flight response would make us feel short of breath thus stimulating more breathing to oxygenate the muscles in our attempt to flee. This circuit is overactive in you -- I don't think any saber-tooth tigers are after you. But the response is the same -- and you have learned to focus on your inability to take a giant breath as a problem, possibly COPD. In fact, this is anxiety playing tricks on your mind, not affecting your lungs at all. Dr. Sheppe