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Psychosomatic Asthma

Does anybody have any advice for how to deal with asthma that's purely in your head? I've had asthma since birth so I'm well aware of my triggers and carefully avoid them but if for whatever reason, I find myself without an inhaler e.g it occasionally runs out or it gets misplaced, I almost instantly become tight chested and wheezy, never to the point where I feel I'm in trouble but just enough so its uncomfortable. I've tried breathing exercises, drinking black coffee etc but it seems once its lodged in my head, it cant be shifted until I'm able to use an inhaler. I know the obvious answer is 'just don't think about it' but sometimes that's easier said than done. Just keen to know if anyone else has experienced anything similar that might be able to help.

2 Replies

I think this is a normal response as asthma can be triggered by emotions too. I have only ever not had my inhaler with me once because i changed my bag that day and I had to keep myself really calm and talk myself out of a panic. and went home ASAP to get it. Now I have an inhaler in every bag and take a spare in my work bag also. I just have to move my spacer from bag to bag.

And I have one in the lounge and one in the bedroom and spare in my meds stash so never misplace it. That would be my advice is always have it to hand.


As JF said - even though asthma can sometimes be triggered by emotions, when asthma is triggered by emotions, the asthma itself is not psychosomatic - its real asthma and needs the usual treatments. That's probably why things just won't go away without the inhaler.

Another thought - I sometimes find that emotions will co-opt whatever physical symptoms are going on in my body. For example, when I'm angry I'll sometimes cough - however, the quality of the cough differs depending on whether there is also a physical reason for coughing. If I'm having an asthma exacerbation, then the cough will be my usual clear-out-stale/trapped-air asthma cough deep from the gut - it isn't a cough I can produce at all unless I'm flaring so its definitely an asthma cough, and eventually I would have probably coughed anyway with or without the anger. Similarly, if I have a chest cold, then the quality of the cough will be a chest cold cough - I don't think anger produces I-have-a-nasty-cold sort of mucus!

And, of course if I have none of the above then any cough that is triggered is more of a throat clearing sort of cough, though to be honest, that has only rarely happened. If there is nothing physical to co-opt my body find other ways to ""speak"" to me.

I think there is a lot of value in listening to one's body and trying to figure out if a symptom is expressing an emotion - even if the symptom itself is entirely physical. The line between the emotional and physical isn't all that clean-cut. The body can create or enhance emotions and emotions can make use of whatever is going on in the body. it is a two way street, not an either/or situation. Sometimes when I ask my body ""what are you saying to me"" I get surprising answers. Sometimes it just says ""I want you to take better care of me"". Sometimes it says ""you are stressed"". Sometimes it says ""you don't have enough self-confidence"" - different things for different times.

I think JF's solution is both practical and realistic - if your body needs the inhaler - just make sure you have it. Perhaps your reaction is just your body saying to you: ""be nice to me and have the things I need on hand in case I do need help"". By having a little bit of tightness, your body is reminding you to be sure to have what you need if you run into a more severe trigger that goes beyond simple discomfort.

On the other hand, if you find yourself feeling loads of anxiety then it may be helpful to do some reading up on health anxiety - sometimes dealing with a chronic condition can be emotionally challenging. If fear is keeping you from doing things you really care about, that's important to deal with too. Being prudent with asthma is very important, but being fearful is not something you should have to live with!


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