Asthma UK community forum

Asthma ""all in your head"" can that be true

On occasions like 3 times in the past nine years been taken to hospital by family with panic attacks - so not very many. Emergency admitted through a chest infection about 5 years ago which was before my GP had diagnosed me with asthma. mentioned said panic attacks to consultant and when i came out of hospital mentioned in a letter that the asthma was actually panic attacks and its all in my head again ~GP went mad and did not believe the consultant one bit. me as a person knows and feels different from a panic to an asthma attack or asthma symptoms and so does my husband. My husband usually knows of an imminent attack as the colour drains from my face really quick and at the same time i mention it to him and we hunt the inhaler really quick and usually i am ok after taking it usually. So presume if it were panic attacks as the so called consultant suggested then the inhalers would not work?

Any thoughts

3 Replies

It is a really tricky thing when someone tells you ""its all in your head"", in fact, they use that phrase incorrectly, they tend to mean ""you're exadgerating"" which is very different or ""you're making it up"" which you know isn't true, or ""you're having panic attacks"" as in your case. And when they say itsd 'just' panic attacks, they use that as an excuse not to treat, when in fact, it means that there is just a different problem to treat. They also seem to think that having one panic aattack in your whole life means that you can never get ill again (and if thats true, bring on the panic attack!!).

It is certainly possibly that when you have asthma attacks, they bring on a panic attack, that doesnt mean the asthma component isn't happening, but the panic attack will make matters worse. It might be worth trying to remind yourself to remain calm and keep your breathing as slow as possible during asthma attacks if it is possible that this is a component. I also sometimes find that as i have to breathe harder and faster during an attack than i do normally, that when im starting to improve, i will sometimes hyperventilate out of habit almost, and it takes someone to point it out to me, and then i kind of ask what normal breathing speed is, as once im feeling a bit better i can start to slow things down, but i dont know how slow is normal!

However, whilst i cannot see you and therefore cannot say for a fact that you arent just having panic attacks, i willl say that if you've had both, i see no reason why you wouldnt know the difference, and the fact that it responds to inhalers does point to asthma (although i guess cons could argue psychosymatic effect) does point towards asthma. I assume you do PFs? are they a good measure for you? Panic attacks *shouldnt* introduce variability in PFs (as far as i know). If you've been in A&E have they told you what your CO2 is like? Sometimes A&E docs don't seem to understand that in most ""normal"" asthma attacks, CO2 will drop, as they do in panic attacks, and so they read it as a panic attack, whereas actually, during an asthma attack a normal co2 level is actually a bad sign! Oxygen should be normal during a panic attack (as far as i know) and there shouldnt be any wheeze. Its hard, as some atypical asthmatics also have all the above looking just like a panic attack, and so it can be really hard to differentiate.

What i would say is something along the lines of ""how can i start having a panic attack, slowly, without having any feelings of anxiety before it happens"" as this just demonstrates that you dont *feel* like you're having panic attacks. Also what is surprisingly effective, but shouldn't be is asking what they propose to do about the panic attacks that are so constant and debilitating, as it cannot be treated with anti-anxiety medication as you are not anxious and councilling would have the same problem, physio would be no good as during these panic attacks you are physically unable to take slow deep breaths. Up until now you would have assumed the difficulty was caused by asthma, so would have treated it with inhalers, (and this worked usually) so how do they propose treating panic attacks with no psychological effects. It is frustrating to have to ""agree"" with them in order to get treatment, but if thats the only way, then so be it!!

As I said, i can;'t see you, but i think its silly that most cons describe difficult asthmatics as anxious at at least some point.


hey Louise

hope you are feeling better, ""its all in your head"" well people know there own bodys and how they are feeling so i think the consultant could not have said this go back to your gp and try and see another consultant at a different hospital maybe there is a BIG diffident between a bad asthma attack and a panic attack.

hope this helps take care mathew :)


I suffered from panic attacks and took medication for anxiety about ten years ago (after a series of difficult events in my first term at uni) and have found that once people find this out, they seem to think everything is caused by anxiety. I spent years learning relaxation techniques and coping strategies so feel that I now deal with any anxious situations well (I also avoid them as I don't want to end up feeling like I did then). It has often been implied that my asthma is actually anxiety attacks but like you I can feel the difference between the two (although it is hard to explain). People around me have also been able to tell by the way I am. In fact, I don't think one nurse actually believed I even had asthma until I had lung function and blood tests. I am currently taking a low dose antidepressant for a joint disorder and found that when in hospital, people where quite willing to blame it on my 'depression' until I pointed out that that dosage would do anything for depression! A nurse who I have never seen me before today told me that I should seriously consider whether my latest flare is actually stress (even though my consultant has recently told them that I react strongly to pollen!) I am so glad that this is not just me.


You may also like...