how to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety

Shortness of Breath and Anxiety: Understanding the Connection

Shortness of breath can be a distressing sensation, leaving you feeling anxious and worried. However, it’s important to recognize that anxiety disorders can be a common cause of this symptom. By understanding the connection between shortness of breath and anxiety, you can better differentiate between a potentially serious health condition and anxiety-related breathlessness.

Anxiety and its Impact on Breathing

Anxiety is a normal response to stress or a perceived threat. However, individuals with anxiety disorders may experience excessive and persistent feelings of worry, fear or tension. These heightened emotions can lead to physical manifestations, including shortness of breath.

how to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety

During moments of anxiety, your body prepares for a fight-or-flight response. This triggers a release of stress hormones and causes changes in your breathing pattern. You may start taking shallow, rapid breaths or feel like you can’t get enough air. These irregular breathing patterns can intensify anxiety symptoms and lead to a cycle of increased anxiety and breathlessness.

Recognizing Anxiety as the Cause of Shortness of Breath

It can be challenging to differentiate between shortness of breath caused by anxiety and that caused by a physical health issue. However, certain indicators can help you identify anxiety as the root cause:

1. Previous Anxiety Diagnosis

If you have a known history of anxiety or have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the likelihood of your shortness of breath being anxiety-related is higher.

2. No Physical Triggers

Pay attention to your surroundings and activities at the onset of your shortness of breath. If there are no apparent physical triggers, such as exercise or exposure to allergens, anxiety may be the underlying cause.

3. Accompanying Anxiety Symptoms

Shortness of breath due to anxiety is often accompanied by other anxiety-related symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, or feelings of impending doom.

4. Breathing Techniques

Trying relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, can provide relief from anxiety-related shortness of breath. If implementing these techniques helps alleviate the symptom, it is more likely to be attributed to anxiety.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

While anxiety is a common cause of shortness of breath, it is essential not to dismiss other potential underlying health conditions. If you experience any of the following alongside breathlessness, it is advisable to seek medical assistance:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing even while at rest
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever or chills
  • Severe fatigue or weakness

If your shortness of breath is persistent, worsens over time, or is causing significant distress, consulting with a healthcare professional is always recommended.

Managing Anxiety-Related Shortness of Breath

Fortunately, there are several strategies to manage anxiety-related shortness of breath:

1. Deep Breathing

Practice deep breathing exercises regularly, even when you are not experiencing breathlessness. This helps train your body to default to a calm breathing pattern during moments of anxiety.

2. Relaxation Techniques

Implement relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or mindfulness meditation, to reduce overall anxiety levels.

3. Exercise

Engage in regular physical activity, as it can help reduce anxiety and improve your overall well-being. However, refrain from vigorous exercise during an episode of shortness of breath.

4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Consider seeking therapy from a mental health professional trained in CBT. This therapy can help you identify and modify unhelpful thoughts and behaviors contributing to your anxiety symptoms.

5. Medication

In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend medication to manage anxiety symptoms. These medications may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines.


Shortness of breath caused by anxiety can be distressing but is usually not a cause for concern. By recognizing anxiety as a possible trigger and implementing anxiety management techniques, you can effectively reduce the intensity and frequency of anxiety-related breathlessness. However, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional if you experience severe or persistent symptoms to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Similar Posts