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Anxiety Support
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Why hard to breath?

Why does it feel hard to breath and feel like chest/lungs are being held back by ribs when you are having a panic attack? (Physiologically I mean) Like what mechanism caused by anxiety makes you feel that? Because that is a scary feeling. My lungs sound clear, blood oxygen normal, heart rate normal, blood pressure normal, and normal blood pressure. So clearly it is the anxiety making me feel that, but why/how?

5 Replies

DustinS85, all your vitals are normal because it is not coming from a physical issue but a mental one. The panic attack starts in your brain but then affects the nervous system as well as the muscles in your upper stomach and diaphragm. It's where your solar plexus is which emits the emotions you feel when afraid or anxious. The muscles tighten in making you feel as if you cannot take a full breath. You get scared and that increases the tension which then keeps the adrenaline active making you complete a circle of fear. The best thing you can do is deep breathe yourself into a calming place. With each exhale think Peace, Calm or Safe. As the deep breathing calms your sensitized nervous system, the muscles will start to relax allowing you to take in a full breath.


Thank you for that explanation. It was very thorough! Exactly what I wanted.


I have this all day and night, not just during an attack. Same thing...nothing wrong, just "feelings" or tension. I wonder if painkiller like Advil or Tylenol would work? (But ask your dr. or pharmacist first if you are taking any medication, especially anti-anxiety meds.)

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I have the same problem. Yes, it’s the anxiety. Your brain makes you breath and anxiety affects the part of your brain that causes you to breath. Xanax or Klonopin should help.


Dustin, Dave and Cforte, yes, yes, yes, I have this too. A most uncomfortable feeling. Sometimes I want to go to the hospital, but have had so much experience with it, I just accept it now. I also use a breathing machine to help control my breathing called a "Resperate." A little pricey, but Mayo Clinic recommended once to control blood pressure. Hang tough. I am much more relaxed a night, how 'bout you guys?


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