Psychological factors


Hope you're all as well as you can be. I'm looking forward to a few weeks of relief between the end of summer and the beginnings of the cold weather.

Quick question relating to my last consultant's appointment: Have any of you got any relief from your symptoms by working on psychological factors like stress? Has talking to a psychologist or having any kind of therapy helped any of you? I'd love to hear your stories by reply or PM.


P.S. I m talking about talking therapies, not breathing exercises or Buteyko :)

12 Replies

  • i am under a clinical pyschologist. it dosnt stop my symptoms but helps me deal with the effect my condition has on my life and accept the changes that need to be made. I am not sure I would reccomend it I tried conselling but didnt help as it is health issues

  • stress is known aggravator for asthma, headaches, general illness

    Stress increases your breathing as your body prepares for fight or flight.

    Your heart rate increases, adrenaline is pumped into the blood, bllod prepares to coagulate, blood diverted to skeletal muscles (for fighting or running) but we stand still.

    If you control your breathing then you can prevent stress escalating.

    very regular low level stress means low level continuous over-breathing.

    The alternative to using a breathing exercise to be followed during the stressful time is to take exercise- 45mins of fast pace walking after work can reverse the effects of stress on your underlying breathing- depends on your general health and lifestyle allowing it.

    By preferring to go the route of talking therapy, there may be issues or habits that you have developed to deal with stress in a certain way that need to be changed, isolated or handled with care by a therapist. However, taking control of your breathing could also help you withstand some of the effects of it and keep your at a manageable level by developing coping techniques. It may fundamentally change your way of coping.

    THere is a strong link to anxiety and over breathing that is also linked to a busy mind. Funnily enough taking control of your breathing can have life changing results by quietening your mind (allowing improved sleep and relaxation) without having to undergo the often totally draining process of examining your life to date through a magnifying glass/ fine tooth comb.

    I have heard of people having emotional breakthoughs without therapy when helping themselves through breath retraining, sometimes necessitating different therapy...

    Incidentally, the wearing of a scarf around your face in winter helps to keep the worst affects of the cold from getting at your lungs. Your nose does a wonderful job of this too...air at 6degrees breathed in through the nose is moist and at 37% by the top of the lungs thus keeping reactions to a minimum and may extend your relief til the really cold days.

  • Yes I see a therapist. I find it helps me to cope with how asthma affects my life better. Also if I have a very bad attack, I do find that my anxiety gets worse and I do have a harder time breathing. A few years ago I took a meditation class that I found out about through my therapist, and I find that if I do that for a few minutes each day, particularly when I am stressed, that I feel more even and it's easier to cope with stuff I don't expect.


  • Thanks, Butey. As previously discussed, my breathing is fine (control pause now way over a minute), and I practice hatha yoga and meditation whenever I can. That's why I asked for stories about talking therapies :)

    I don't have the option of a 45 minute fast walk unfortunately. Exercise was my main stress reliever before my asthma put a stop to it.

  • There are psychological treatments that can help with stress, without going into any deep and meaningful traditional therapy.

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is useful in the treatment of mild depression, anxiety and depression. It is possible to learn this alone with self help books, or with a therapists trained in the use of CBT. Mind over mood by Greenberger and Padensky, as is Overcoming Stress by Brosan and Todd.

    I hope that's helpful.

    P xx

  • Thank you. Yes, that's helpful. Has anyone reading this found relief from asthma symptoms after treating stress with CBT?

    I guess what I'm getting at is, can stress cause asthma via any other mechanism than dysfunctional breathing? My consultant and GP tell me that my asthma must have a significant psychological component because I have normal sprirometry, only mild asthma after challenge testing and should feel fine given all the drugs I'm on. I kind of agree with them. I just don't understand the underlying mechanism!

    (by the way, I don't hyperventilate; I take about five breaths a minute and and I always breathe through my nose)

  • This is a very interesting topic. Sorry guys, but personally I am a bit sceptical of doctors talking about asthma having a psychological component. I think they say that when they just simply don't know what is going on or how to treat it!!

    Having said that, everyone is different, and maybe counselling/stress management might help some asthmatics - just not me! My lungs just do their own thing I'm afraid!!

  • My asthma nurse did say stress is top ten asthma trigger. I know it is for me, usually wrestling the kids to bed type stress tho, otherwise my life is fortunately reasonably stress free (at the moment). I don't hyperventilate, increase heart rate or anything, just go from normal to tight chest and SOB.

    I am open minded about counselling though and have found it extremely helpful for me in the past and I'd recommend it to anyone, but as the whether it'll help your asthma, I don't know.

  • I was diagnosed with asthma, which quickly became brittle, at the age of 23 after a period of intense stress. I have no history of asthma or allergic conditions, and no family history either. I notice myself that when I am under intense stress that I am more like to feel wheezy and tight chested.

    I haven't had any psychological 'interventions' but I can see how in theory they could help. I think that anything is worth a shot if it could help you breathe easier :)

  • If I'm completely honest with myself, I do think that sometimes, when I'm very stressed/anxious/panicky, that I begin to breathe differently, which then in turn may affect my asthma. I noticed I start holding my breath for some reason? I try not too and to consciously breathe normally, but I end up getting into a pickle and using me blue pump! Other days, however, I can be under loads of stress and nothing happens. Strange. Maybe I'm just a nutcase..

  • I think stress can effect asthma. Can make symptoms a bit worse and harder to manage. Has never caused me to have an asthma attack tho!!

  • I see a psychologist and a psychiatrist regularly (OCD and Bi-Polar, not fun when they play off each other) and I found it useful in that we dealt with my anxieties and worries. Also helped, mostly, with my intermittant insomnia.

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