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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: I stop breathing while awake

 Jefferson - Thu Oct 30, 2008 11:44 am

Male 35, 240 6'2" Slightly overweight, no known medical conditions, no regular medications.

First i would like to thank whoever responds. I have no insurance, searching for a job, with very little money so simply "going to the doctor" isn't going to be happening any time soon. This seems to be my best option at finding out what is wrong and what i can do about it.

Almost a year ago, i quit smoking using the drug Chantix. I am happy to report success. I have had little problems quitting after many years of smoking, and have had very little desire to smoke.

While on this medication, i found that i had side-effects commonly reported with this drug, vivid dreams, some anxiety, etc. What i didn't expect was that i started developing panic attacks...something i truly had never experienced prior to taking this drug. I experienced extreme claustrophobia which again, up until that time never had a clue what it felt like.

Quite some time ago a friend noticed i had sleep apnea, again never having had it before. However now i believe fully that i not only have developed apnea, but that i also suffer from it while completely awake.

It manifests when i am doing anything that does not require a lot of breath. I am fine when exercising or doing a strenuous task. However when i am idle, it's like i forget to breath. It's truly bizarre. I wind up gasping for air throughout the day.

I have been waking every day with severe headaches (from the apnea it seems and the lack of oxygen in my body), and it's literally like im a walking zombie sometimes.

Does anyone have an understanding of this condition and what i can do about it? I can't exactly walk in to a Dr's office but if i had an understanding of what this is, if someone has had it, and what can be done about it i might be able to mitigate the effects.

Thanks for your time. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 Dr. E. Seigle - Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:24 pm

Hi Jefferson,

While one cannot make a diagnosis for you over the Internet, it is very possible that you are experiencing an anxiety disorder. The sense of not breathing, not getting a full breath, or taking rapid, shallow breaths, is often part of this condition. If you are truly having spells of apnea, that is a condition that is separate and would need to be evaluated by a physician. However, the feeling that you are not breathing may be related to the possible anxiety condition (which is in the ballpark of a panic disorder or its more mild cousin, limited symptom panic attacks. If you choose not to be seen by a psychiatrist for financial considerations, you could purchase one of many self-help books for dealing ith panic disorder by learning relaxation, meditation, and some cognitive-behavioral techniques. It would be best if you could see a psychiatrist however, for a full evaluation and recommendations. Good luck!

-Eliot Seigle MD
 j-fo - Fri Dec 18, 2009 7:18 am

Jonathan, I see that your posting is quite old, but I suffer from the same exact thing, and I was wondering if you made any progress with finding out what it was? Someone pointed out that I stop breathing when listening to conversation, and once it was pointed out to me, of course, I began to notice how often I do hold my breath--or rather I just breathe out and then don't breathe in a gain for some time. And when I am not breathing, I'm actually quite comfortable not breathing, but I also suffer from this at night as well--which I know is referred to as sleep apnea. At night, it causes me not to be able to sleep well. I am really bugged by this issue. My health seems to be good otherwise, or, actually, I do have IBS/stomach problems as well, but other than that I'm physically fit, eat well, etc. Yes, I have stress, but this really feels like something else--and not an anxiety attack. However, I do consider that maybe it does have a psychological component... I welcome comments from anyone. Thanks~
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:57 pm

Hello j-fo,

A physical examination and perhaps a sleep study may help clarify the nature of your breathing issues. Lack of breathing results in loss of consciousness; if you held your breath too long, you would pass out. Other people may not detect it if you are breathing very shallowly, while it would still be enough air exchange for you to maintain consciousness. If the physical examination and/or sleep study does not reveal a physical issue, then a psychological evaluation could help determine any unusual anxiety or other issues that may contribute to your problem.

I hope this is helpful to you. Good luck!

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