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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Chest symptoms

Question: can't take full breaths

 pcmbabe - Fri Sep 26, 2008 5:48 pm

i have had shortness of breath everyday for three weeks now it lasts usually all day im currently trying to stop smoking i don't get winded when i exercise nor does it wake me up at night i did have a sinus cold that went to my lungs but the breathing problem started a week or two before that? i have no insurance and my doc treated me for bronchitis and gave me 1 breathing treatment but didnt give me any instructions to continue them. it helped for a day but im still not breathing right. should i go on a inhaler? i can run jump get very active and it doesnt bother me but it just appears out of the blue when im home relaxing. i do have anxiety but i still get short of breath even when im relaxed
 John Kenyon, CNA - Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:18 pm

User avatar Hello -

While you have had a recent respiratory infection (bronchitis) and may even have asthma, it seems far more likely you are experiencing perceived, rather than actual, shortness of breath. The reason I say this is that you tolerate exercise with no problem, but only seem to have a problem drawing a full, satisfying breath when you are at rest. If it were a pulmonary problem it would worsen at night (these problems almost always worsen when the patient is horizontal) and if it were anything else it would definitely worsen with exertion.

The second part of my thinking on this is that while you acknowlege having some problems with anxiety, you find this breathing problem happens when "i'm home relaxing." Unfortunately, this is a very common (and extremely confusing) phenomenon in anxious people: they feel anxiety symptoms when they believe they are actually in their most relaxed state. What often happens is that anxious people sigh a lot, something of which they are utterly unaware. When one does this chronically (usually most often when "relaxing") it throws off excessive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Since CO2 is the very thing that tells the brain it should want more air (breathing is voluntary but the urge to breathe is not), if it doesn't get enough of it (due to it being blown off due to sighing or other faulty breathing patterns) it doesn't "think" it needs for you to be breathing so much. The result is that you, being awake, know you should be breathing, but your brain doesn't think so, and the result is you feel as though you're not getting adequate air in, because your brain is actually resisting the reflex to breathe. This feels wrong, so you try harder to breathe, believing you should be (and it's true, breathing really is important -- but when we become unwittingly aware of our breathing it throws the whole process into confusion).

This is a long way of saying your sense of shortness of breath is probably an illusion created by an anxious personality. Learning to be fully aware of this and trying to manage it consciously, sometimes can make things get back to normal. When this happens, try breathing slowly, through your nose. Try to consciously resist the urge to sigh when you're physically at rest and relaxing. You may be surprised at how the feeling of oppressiveness disappears. At least that's the idea.

I hope this is helpful to you, and if not, please don't hesitate to follow up with us here. Best of luck to you.

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