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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Chest symptoms

Question: Can't Catch my breath

 AngelTurtle - Tue Feb 27, 2007 9:23 pm

I am a 21 y/o Female with no significant medical history.
(except for having my tonsils removed when I was 11Yrs old)
I sometimes get the feeling that I can't catch my breath and have to yawn or stretch to get a deep, filling breath. Sometimes yawning works and I feel like my lungs open up and i can breathe for a while and sometimes this does not work. I also get palpitations that seem to be getting worse lately. My other symptoms are Headaches, Earaches, Sneezing, Occasional cough(can't get the mucus to come up), Post Nasal Drip and recentley I've been getting dizzy when I lie down. I used to be on allergy medication but switched doctors and haven't had it in quite a while. When I was on the medication it seemed to take care of the Post Nasal drip and the sneezing and stuff.
What I am concerned about is the Palpitaions and the fact that I can't catch my breath. Can these be connected to the allergy symptoms? Somebody suggested Anxiety, but I don't really feel anxious.
Both my mother and my brother have Heart abnormalaties(A floppy something or other and a leaky something or other) and they also had Sinus polyps. My sister and my dad have Heart Murmurs. I also had a CBC done recently and it showed increased neutrophils and decreased Lymphocytes but my basophils and eosinophils are normal. Can this be connected?
I also had a chest x-ray which I never heard about so I guess it was normal.
Are the Palpitations and Difficulty breathing anything I should be worried about?
Any help is much appreciated.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:47 pm

User avatar Hi AngelTurtle - I'm going to answer your post in somewhat reverse order, going toward the end and working backward. The reason is that much of what you have described could be classic anxiety, and you don't feel you are anxious. This is the biggest single problem with resolving anxiety-mediated problems:
the symptoms often precede the actual anxiety, especially in people with what I strongly suspect is a family history of mitral valve prolapse (MVP), also known as "floppy mitral leaflet syndrome", "click murmer syndrome" and a number of other odd terms. The abnormality, which is almost always benign in itself, often runs in families, and also has a peculiar tendency to be linked with anxiety. The symptoms (palpitations, apparent shortness of breath with good exercise tolerance, sometimes left-sided chest pains that are sharp or stabbing, and an increased awareness of one's heart and breathing) often precede the anxiety (which is caused by them) and so anxiety is often denied by the patient, even though the clinical picture is classic, as it is in your own description.

There is probably also a chronic sinus problem, or perhaps allergic rhinitis, which is clearly severe enough to potentially cause some inner ear pressure problems including vertigo (dizzy when you lie down). Vertigo due to inner ear problems has been associated with anxiety and panic attacks as well, so you've got a lot of possible triggers for anxiety that would not be evident to you, even though you are the one feeling the symptoms. (The sighing, yawning and preceived inability to draw a full, satisfying deep breath is also classic and often leads to accidental overbreathing - hyperventilation).

First of all, please do not feel you're being blown off as an anxious patient; anxiety can be a terrible and disabling problem, even though it is not a physical disease. The symptoms lead to more self-monitoring, which leads to more concern (and anxiety)
and thus to more symptoms. It starts to feel as though the situation is spiraling out of control and no one is taking you seriously. Well I am taking this seriously, because the sum of these things can make your life miserable.

It would be helpful to get the physical things under control (perhaps an antihistimine to manage the PND and maybe meclazine for times when you feel dizzy).

Palpitations are extremely common in the normal, healthy population, even though they feel very disturbing. They are rarely of any consequence in an otherwise healthy person.

Awareness of one's own breathing creates a cycle that can lead to panic attacks and chronic anxiety which simply feels likei its physical symptoms, which is why a majority of people with this problem deny they are anxious: they feel real symptoms and assume that is where they should be looking.

Ruling out anything serious is a helpful starting point, treating symptoms of chronic physical issues (like allergies or sinusitis) and possibly a trial of an anti-anxiety medication if correcting the physical symptoms, may get everything back in order. (The palpitations are rarely treated unless they are very persistent).

I hope this helps and please do stay in touch.
 Dr Stress - Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:28 am

Oh my word, SNAP, i have exactly the same thing, only i will tell you right off, that i do stress a hell of a lot, my work, my life, my religion, my everything, it is almost like it is ingrained into my DNA, i have a very stressful career, and to top it all off, i have insane acid reflux, so bad that i can taste it in my mouth from time to time. at night when i am lying in my bed, mostly when i am alone and off somewhere in a far away country, i will start to drift off to sleep and get this sensation, can not call it a pain cos it really does not feel that bad, but it is like my heart stops, then remembers, oh heck, i am supposed to be beating here. it honestly feels like that, then there are times i swear i can feel it struggle to pump, it is becoming a real worry to me, i have been for CT scans, MRI's, Sonars, you name it i've probably done it.

a month ago, i got the numbness in my arm and shortness of breath all at the same time, then the palpitations began, i really thought this is it. lying down just as i am about to fall asleep, i stop breathing, then i get such a fright, i am up and that is it, no more sleep for the night.

If this is anxiety Dr, what can i do to stop it, it is ruining my life, i do not know how much more i can actually take of this, i have been to Dr's here in South Africa, but money seems to be all they are interested in, i walk out of the rooms poorer but not any richer in the knowledge of what my actual problem is, it is really beginning to effect my life, work and almost everything i do, i need it to stop, it has been three years now, i just cannot anymore.

Please help me.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Mon Feb 15, 2010 4:39 pm

User avatar For Dr. Stress: Ideally you'd be able to visit a doctor, have a solid differential diagnosis, call it anxiety and be directed to someone practicing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a self-limited, interactive form of behavior modification that helps the patient to recognize the onset of symptoms and derail them til finally they no longer "work", so give up and go away. Sometimes, too, if the symptoms are fairly disruptive, as they seem to be for you (and they so often are), a temporary anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help lift the burden of dealing with the somatic symptoms til CBT has been completed. In rare cases, longer term medical management is required, but most often the therapy is a huge help. If you're unable to get this help where you are, this may then become a do-it-yourself project, which seems unfair, but is becoming more and more common in certain areas where healthcare provision is dictated by unresponsive systems. If that's the case there, by all means continue to seek medical help, don't let up on it, but also undertake the DIY approach and begin to look at meditation, relaxation techniques, distraction, etc. Sometimes these can have remarkable effects, sometimes not, but they are worth a try. There are some books out there, too, which are helpful in learning these techniques.It's difficult to get started because the anxious patient is already distracted by his symptoms. Realizing this can actually be a good starting point sometimes , though.

I wish I could give you some magic formula for taking the upper hand of this, but first you do need an unequivocal medical rule out of any physical causes. Once that's done it's partly your job to badger the providers for the right referrals. Other than that, one sometimes has to learn to be still by finding one's own center. It is a necessarily vague suggestion because every one of us gets there via a different route, but it can be done.

Best of luck to you. Please stay in touch with us here and follow up as needed.
 psolomon - Sun Feb 28, 2010 4:50 am


I am a cadet in an ROTC Program at college and am used to physical strain and shortness of breath during runs/physical training. But recently, I have been struggling to catch a full breath of air at night when I am trying to get to sleep. It is bad--I usually end up having to go outside to just sit and hope for the best. This problem is disrupting my life at school and it messing up my study opportunities.

What could be causing this?

I have a history of childhood asthma (diagnosed at age 3) but am now 18 and in control of my asthma symptoms to the point where I do not need any medications. I do not have a cold/influenza/pneomonia/etc.

I am worried that this might start happening during the day and actually start to mess up my social life. Please help...
 jroe18 - Tue Jul 20, 2010 11:01 am


I feel the exact same way. I'm 18 years old and I get these episodes where my chest feels some pressure particularly on the left side. I sometimes would even feel that I'm not hungry and skip breakfast or just eat a little bit of it. The shortness of breath has been going on for 2-3 months. However, I started getting some shakiness in my legs not too long ago and hasn't shown up sense. I feel irritable and miserable because I don't know what's wrong with me. I called 911 one day because I was so scared. The paramedics checked my oxygen level and said it was normal. They also checked my blood pressure which was also normal. They said I had an anxiety attack but I thought anxiety attacks was something more serious like passing out or something to that effect. My mom and many others believe it is anxiety but I don't see what I'm so anxious about. I feel as if it's something else and I'm just a sitting duck doing nothing. It gets worse when I'm getting ready to go to bed and woke me up several times last night. I could also hear a lot of gurgling noises in my stomach for some reason. I also feel dizzy when I'm lying down sometimes. Thank you for your time.

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