Anxiety and breathing

Hi everyone,

Please respond, I'm living in constant fear.

I began having trouble breathing after a few medical scares and I've been to a pulmanologist who ran blood work, an X Ray, and I did a lung function test. Following that, I had a great fear of death and I fell into depression. My breathing never quite got better but it subsided knowing nothing is wrong with my lungs.

Fast forward two years and now I have had many recent life changes (married, starting a new stressful job, etc) and I have had recent health scares again that all checked out normal. My breathing issue became more aparent. I have had trouble breathing with dizziness and weakness. My biggest fear is that I have noticed that it is only my left side that has difficulty breathing. I often feel I have a right throat on the left side and I cannot get air through my left nostril.

I recently visited a GP who after hearing my background says I have been having panic attacks and was not particularly worried about the breathing. I, however, am having a hard time accepting that a constant feeling that I cannot get air through my left nostril is anxiety caused.

Oh, and in addition, I've been having tight chest feelings, but mostly on the left side again.

Please let me know if this is normal to experience anxiety on one side or not. I'm terrified.

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30 Replies

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  • Sounds like your under a lot of stress and it's really causing your anxiety to flare up. If your Dr. has given you a clean bill of health you should think about getting help with the anxiety it's self. Many people feel it in different ways. Talk with your Dr. again, I had to talk to more than one to find help. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends and family. Your not alone, hope you feel better soon

  • Is it feasible for anxiety to cause constant trouble breathing on one side?

  • Anxiety can imitate every physical symptom you can think of and quite a few you can't. You've had a lot of tests and medical attention and been given a clean bill of health. You should be celebrating but you're not, you still think you have an organic problem rather than anxiety disorder. I'm not criticising because most of us with anxiety problems have done it, we still prefer our own fears rather than the diagnosis of someone who went to medical school for 5 years. That's because anxiety disorder brings with it hypochondria and Doctor Google is always willing to cary 'facts'.

    So here's the bottom line and it's exactly what you know in your heart to be true. There's nothing organically wrong with your pulmonary/breathing system. You're experiencing high anxiety and with you it manifests itself as thinking you have a breathing problem (along with feelings of dizziness, weakness and impending demise). You're constantly stressing and obsessing about your breathing and constantly testing yourself. This level of constant introspection makes your over sensitised nervous system respond by simulating these symptoms in that part of your body you're constantly thinking about. The whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy except that the symptoms that trouble you aren't real, they're all fake caused by glitches in your nervous system.

    If you could stop thinking about your 'breathing difficulties' they would all disappear before long. But you can't and neither could we. So what you do instead, the magic bullet, is to calmly ACCEPT the bad feelings with the minimum of fear knowing them to be fraudulent and that they can never do you bodily harm. Stop fighting the symptoms because fighting only causes more tension for your troubled nerves. Just let the bad feelings come and ACCEPT them for the time being, come one come all, they may make you feel uncomfortable but they're confidence tricksters that can kill you or disable you. Let them come and just carry on with your life. Don't try to forget them because if you're forgeting them you're not accepting them. So practice ACCEPTANCE with persistence. This isn't a quick cure but then you've spent years getting yourself into this state so you'll need to allow a little time to get out of it.

    So that's the story, that's the route to recovery that has allowed untold tens of thousands to regain their quiet mind. There's no reason why you shouldn't be next.

  • Thank you. I struggle with acceptance given that this is a constant battle. I feel physical symptoms such as air not being able to flow through my left nostril.

    I have severe medical anxiety and am afraid that something is wrong with my nose or my throat.

    Should I just accept this as nothing being wrong or should I pursue more specialized medical attention? I'm sorry for asking so many questions after your very well thought out response, but I am feeling as though I can't live this way anymore. It is affecting everything I dob

  • If you pursue more specialized medical attention then youare not practicing Acceptance. You could pursue more specialized medical attention for more reassurance but if and when the result comes back that there is nothing physically wrong then I suggest you must accept that second opinion from a specialist.

  • Okay, you're right. Perhaps I will try acceptance. My pulse ox levels are always fine even though I cannot breathe from my left side.

    I know you are not doctors, but is this problem potentially caused by anxiety? Feeling like I have a heavy chest on my left side and lack of oxygen there? My right side is completely fine.

  • I suppose what is bothering me the most is that it is only on the left side. If this was just anxiety would it be on both sides or can it be confined to one side?

  • jaredolafsson, I agree with Jeff1943 as well as your decision to want to get one more opinion. If you are told that it is anxiety, then I hope you will follow Jeff's advise in accepting that it is. If you don't you will continue on this merry go round of doctor after doctor until you eventually have someone who will find something.

    I would suggest an ENT, since the breathing seems to be one sided. It could be a bad deviated septum causing that. It's good to be your own Advocate as long as you know when to stop. Good Luck and let us know what your decision is and how you make out. My best.

  • I presume that a doctor has checked your airways on the left side to confirm there is no obstruction. Anxiety can make itself known by just affecting your nose and chest on the left side or the right side or both sides just as some people on this forum get pain caused by anxiety in just one arm and not both sides. Anxiety is not radially symetrical in its choices☺

  • I have not been to an ENT to be fully checked for obstruction. I have only been to a pulmanologist and he has cleared my lungs 2 years ago. Is this something to be worried about? I'm so convinced that something is seriously wrong with me. Maybe my throat or nose.

  • I am trying to be rational but it is hard. I'm struggling to realize how anxiety could affect me in this way.

  • jaredolafsson, As Jeff1943 stated, anxiety can affect everyone in a different way. For whatever reason, symptoms can present on one side or both. My suggestion to see an ENT was not to scare you but to relieve your doubts. I'm hoping that once you are reassured that nothing is seriously wrong, you will be able to accept the diagnosis as Anxiety.

  • You'll just have to take our word for it that anxiety can present in this way. I think you do need the reassurance of an ENT consultation. Can you actually breathe through your left nostril? Also, as you're starting a new job with extra pressures it might help if you asked your doctor for a short course of mild tranquillisers to cover the period until you've settled in.

  • Yes, I can breathe through the nostril. At times it is very difficult ( like breathing through a straw) and others (typically after periods of shock or excitement) it is fine. That's why I'm not sure

  • I find it is worst in the mornings and when I have been worrying a lot

  • Yes, I think you need further reassurance and an ENT specialist will be able to give you a definitive answer. But either way, jaredolafsson, there's no need worry as whether it's a physical problem or whether it's anxiety it can be fixed without too much trouble. Maybe the prospect of the new job and its challenges is making you too anxious about everything.

  • Yeah? Nothing to be worried about that is potentially threatening to me physically? Other than the anxiety which is terrible enough itself

  • Yes, the terrible anxiety can be fixed, I tried to explain how in my first posting to you.

  • The thing that really bothers me is that at times I can breathe through the nostril just fine. So it leads me to believe that nothing is wrong with my nose. I think I am just going to practice acceptance and realize that I can breathe at times. And my oxygen levels are fine

  • Hi I have blocked nose all year round its called allergic rhinitis it causes blocked nose or sometimes runny nose I've had it for years.but you can try nose sprays for it,hope this helps,but anxiety does cause all kinds of symptoms and when anxiety is really bad you feel you will never get better and worry yourself silly.but trust me it does get better once you accept it hard to believe I know but I've been there and have lots of good days now still get a few bad ones but I say to myself accept the bad days as best you can .and the good days follow.hope you are feeling more relaxed.

  • I have a lot of problems breathing too, only when I think about it, it gets worse. If I have my mind on something else I usually never notice it..

  • I have health concerns so trust I totally get u it's definitely health anxiety.

  • Hi, I agree with the others that it is anxiety but just to add something to the pot, I regularly have a blocked left nostril due to allergies - some foods, perfumes etc., can cause it to block completely - but only on the left side! Maybe you could have a mild allergy to something so it might be worth making a note of the types of food, drink or chemicals you have been in contact with prior to it blocking, as it could well be something like this. It's not harmful, just really annoying :-)

  • Remember that your mind is playing tricks on you. Let's apply logic here if your mind has the power of making you feel sick means that also has the power to do the opposite.

    I went through everything you wrote here. You have to focus in the "Here And Now". Personally, I'm tricking my mind the other way and is working. I'm focusing heavily on breathing exercises and I've been feeling very, very good lately. I feel energized, motivated and happy. I do breathing exercises several times a day, in fact, every time I feel anxious. If you have a smart phone, there are plenty of apps that guide you through it. I use a free one called "Insight Timer" and it is awesome.

    Always remember, IT IS NOT REAL, you will go to the doctor, they will run a bunch of tests to find nothing. There is nothing wrong with your heart, lungs and whatever your mind is telling you. You just need to shut up the "voice in your head". Cheer up my friend! Life is beautiful and worth living! Conquer the mind! Bless you!

  • Thank you very much for the response. I'm becoming more aware that my nose changes in being open and blocked. I've noticed that the left side of my chest though is very tight and makes it hard to breathe. Is this reasonable with anxiety? Do people experience this even when they are not panicking? With that said, breathing exercises are hard to do. I just downloaded the app called Calm and I will try that.

    Thank you all for the responses. It gives me hope that others experience what I do too.

  • Yep, same for me! Also, fast heart rate, tingling in your hands and feet, etc. All these are because of fear of death. My advice, eat healthy, go to the gym, eliminate caffeine, try to have at least 8 hrs. of sleep. And yes, Calm is very good! Take care man and always remember, don't trust your mind, it is not real!

  • Health scares coupled with life stressors can kick anxiety up to great heights. Breathing issues are a common symptom of anxiety. I doubt that there is any reason to be worried but another visit to the doctor would probably be a good move. And Don't forget to talk about your anxiety. Additional alternatives include therapy and a support group for anxiety.

  • All I kno is that anxiety can affect my breathing so severely that I can't breathe. It happens during the night. It's terrifying. X

  • I completely relate. I had a traumatic experience almost 2 years ago. I became depressed and just sat at home with my mind wondering. I became very fearful that I was going to die and leave my children. I started having the same symptoms you have. It was probably my fourth visit to the emergency dept that a docotor did a blood gas test. He found that i was having panic attacks and hyperventilating. I would have 4-5 attacks daily along with just anxiety. I am sure i have had a dozen or so ED visits over the past year. My gp put me on anxiety meds that i take daily and one that i take when i feel an attack coming on. I've found some techniques that help settle me out of an attack. Just breath, the best words my husband tells me when he sees my anxiety spiking. It's crazy how the mind can cause you to have the physical symptoms of a stroke, heart attack, blood clots, smothering...

    I still have bad days, but they are further apart and I now go weeks without a panic attack. Google ways to calm a panic attack. Try some out and find what helps.

    This my go to:

    * Look around you

    * Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

    This is called grounding. It can help when you feel like you have lost all your surroundings.

    Hope this helps. And remember you are not alone.

  • Update to everyone still following this thread. I went to an ENT and had a scope down my nose and throat. He says he found a slightly deviated septum on the left side and that the issues are being aggravated by either allergies or sinus problems. He recommended me for some scans that I just can't afford at the time. He said that he is not worried about anything serious though, which puts me at ease.

    I still have this feeling that I can't get enough air on the left side of my chest. Am I just experiencing anxiety? This tight chest and lack of air (though my pulse ox levels are over 97%) is all day - wondering if it's in my head.

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