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Shortness of Breath and Anxiety

Pragya T
People suffering from shortness of breath and anxiety need to change their lifestyle to avoid this condition. Read ahead to understand the causes behind this disorder, and the home care measures you need to undertake to prevent it.
Can anxiety cause shortness of breath? Yes, it very well can. Many people keep thinking if anxiety is a cause leading to labored breathing. During any anxiety attack a person will often experience difficulty breathing.
In many stress-related disorders, a person will experience difficulty in breathing or will start breathing rapidly. However, the reverse is also true - if a person experiences breathing problems, it will affect the person mentally and a person might experience anxiety.


Adjustment-related Disorders

People having any adjustment disorder often experience shortness of breath. People having maladaptive behavior or varying moods like nervousness, worry, jitters, and impairment in normal functioning, and problems like inability to attend school or work or interacting with other people may also suffer from difficulty in breathing.

Panic-related Conditions

During panic disorders, intense anxiety is the main symptom. Other symptoms are breathing difficulty, palpitations, trembling, nausea, tingling sensations, and fear of going mad. The panic attacks can last for several minutes or hours and can cause intense discomfort to a person.


Many persistent fears or being paranoid about something and avoiding the object or situation can lead to mild to intense anxiety. Phobias can lead to rapid breathing or shortness of breath. Sometimes, phobia of witnessing blood or tissue injury, which is known as needle phobia can interfere and complicate medical intervention or tests.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

This disorder is characterized by persistent thoughts, ideas, obsessions, purposeful, or intentional behavior. A person can be termed as suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, if the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior is time-consuming and distracting enough to interfere with the daily functions related to work or school.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD condition is diagnosed when a person again experiences a traumatic event with intrusive tense recollections which can be dreams, flashbacks, or hallucinations. This is a serious disorder, where a person might experience shortness of breath and in severe cases might be hospitalized.

Other Causes

Other causes include generalized anxiety and certain lung diseases. If a person experiences excessive anxiety or worry due to two or more life circumstances, a person might experience breathing problems from anxiety. In lung diseases like asthma or pulmonary tuberculosis, a person will often experience difficulty in breathing.


The treatment is aimed at treating the cause, rather than the symptom. So, one needs to seek medical care and treatment for a complete treatment. However, with some home care measures one can notably manage stress. Breathing exercises and good diet can help improve breathing. Here are some measures and the situations when you need to seek medical help.

Home Care Measures

  • Try to figure out what worries you the most or makes you depressed. Maintain a diary of such thought and experiences. Find a person like a friend, a clergy, or a family member who will listen to you. You can also go for some therapy or consult a psychologist.
  • To cope with stress, try to inculcate healthy habits.
  • Eat a good balanced diet and avoid overeating.
  • Get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
  • Get enough fresh air.
  • Take a break from things if they become very stressful.
  • Go for some breathing meditations like Vipassana meditation, yoga, or other type of meditation for stress management.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • Seek immediate medical help, if you have thoughts of suicide.
  • If you experience anxiety which is elicited by the memory of a traumatic past event, then medical attention is required.
  • Seek immediate medical help, if you have severe pain in the chest with shortness of breath and dizziness or sweating, as it could be a symptom of a heart attack.
  • Contact a doctor if you have sudden feeling of panic.
  • Seek medical help if anxiety affects your normal functions like work.
  • Seek medical attention if you have a certain habit that you repeatedly do.
  • If you have tried the given self care measures for several weeks and your anxiety hasn't reduced then make sure that you opt for medical help.
With some self-care measures, one can manage the stress level and thus control anxiety and breathing problems. But, always keep in mind the situations where you need to seek medical care to prevent any life-threatening situation.
Disclaimer: The particulars mentioned here are for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.