Does your asthma sometimes make you feel anxious? Or could your anxiety actually be to blame for causing your respiratory distress? For many people, it can be hard to differentiate between the physical and emotional symptoms. Further complicating the situation is that both asthma and anxiety often co-exist.

Asthma and Anxiety

Shortness of breath, a tightening in your chest, coughing, and wheezing, particularly at night or upon exertion, are typical asthma symptoms. But a panic attack can have a similar presentation. Some common signs that occur with severe anxiety include difficulty breathing, chest tightness, tingling in the hands or fingers, increased heart rapid and pulse, lightheadedness or other physical symptoms. These feelings can come on out of the blue, or can be triggered by some type of an event, or even as the result of your asthma symptoms. Therefore, many patients can be left feeling uncertain of which condition is to blame for their distress.

Separating Out the Asthma and Anxiety Differences

With so much overlap between asthma and anxiety, it's no wonder you probably can't separate out the differences. Further, asthma and anxiety are often quite related so at times, there's no clear distinction. Why, though, and which problem comes first, doesn't seem to be clear, despite several scientific efforts to understand the linkages that exist.

More research is currently underway to better understand asthma and mood disorders and to determine how best to address the connection. But in the meantime, regardless of whether the asthma comes first, or if it occurs as a result of your anxiety, there can be some things you can do to keep both conditions in check.

Tips to Manage Asthma and Anxiety Symptoms

First, it can be a good idea to talk with your doctor about how to effectively manage your symptoms. Following your asthma management plan and also avoiding your biggest triggers can be a step in the right direction.

Further, if anxiety and emotions seem to bring on an asthma attack, you'll need to work at keeping your mood as calm and even as you can, and when you do feel your anxiety heating up, you may need to respond by increasing your medication and taking other preventative steps. You can also work with a mental health professional to help manage your emotions and reduce your anxiety level. Techniques like learning deep breathing to calm yourself, engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy to minimize your reaction, taking anxiety medications to head off an anxiety attack and engaging in yoga or other relaxation practices can all make a real difference.

Take Control

You should know that some asthma medications can make anxiety worse, so if you think that this could be the case, it's worth talking to your doctor to find out if you should try other treatment methods and see if that helps to relieve your distress. Since the asthma and anxiety connection can be strong, by taking control of the situation you may be able to break a bad cycle and find yourself breathing better and worrying less.


International Journal of Child Health and Human Development/National Institutes of Health

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