How do I tell the difference between anxiety/overbreathing and true asthma?

Recently I began checking my peak flow meter more often trying to catch my symptoms in the act. I've found that the forced exhaling into the meter actually relieves some of my symptoms, as does some coughing from a recent cold I've caught. Even a few days back, I had symptoms of a bad stomach ache and bloating; when these were in play I felt less problems with my breathing. When they stopped, I felt my old "asthma" again.

My breathing symptoms can break through all the inhalers I've tried, and are especially prominent in the cold weather or when I sleep less. I never cough outside of my cold, or wheeze. I just get a tight chest and shortness of breath. The chest tightness radiates into my throat, so it feels like nothing is going into my lungs, so nothing can get out either. It isn't hyperventilation to my knowledge, because I never get pins and needles or a racing heart. In fact I only get the racing heart as I struggle to breath more-! (Makes my vision go too, and my anxiety goes through the roof)

I'm extremely unorthodox for an asthma patient, and I'm actually starting to wonder if I have asthma at all? My physio suggested the blue inhalers - which do help me a little - untighten my chest and relieve my breathing, but that I actually have what she calls "overbreathing" or dysfunctional breathing mechanisms. She seemed adamant that it wasn't hyperventilation, despite how similar it sounds.

What is a definitive way to tell the difference between asthma and anxiety symptoms. A huge part of me begs for it to be anxiety, because then it can be cured.

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  • Forgot to say, a third GP has written me off because nobody can catch my symptoms when they happen. At the same time I can't deny I have some hallmarks of asthma - had it briefly as a child, very bad eczema/acne growing up and the triggers too. Doctors refuse to let me try steroid tablets or nebulizers though because they're convinced it is all in my head (except for the physio)

  • The doctors are wrong about it being in your head. Can you try another doctor?

  • Hi Greatgateway it 's a chicken and egg situation, stress can bring on asthma, it is well known as a trigger..At the same time you talk about a cold well that is a definite trigger and your stomach if bloating brings on acid reflux it could be a trigger as well.

    I think you need a good check up..

    I never trust doctors who tell you you have nothing and it's stress, that's poor diagnosing and laziness on their part..but they are few and far between hopefully.

    it happened to me once years ago when I had followed my husband who was on a course in Ipswich, I ended up with 8mg of valium per day and was like a zombie! I talked to you about 1975, so my Mum came over I remember and took me to another surgery for a second opinion, they were horrified and had to wean me out of all those benzo, treated me for a colitis which was what I had apparently then I was as right as rain after that.

    So you are in your right to ask for a referral to the respiratory clinic, have you been already? and say you want the lot..see me now first CT scan 16 years after being diagnosed and they found all sorts..I wish I had been more assertive in those days and got the best out of the NHS..so be strong hey, and let us know what's going on.

    Take care x

  • Hello GG! I was suffering from something very similar - so much so that I was thinking 'well this must be asthma because it's affecting my breathing.' After trying some Bach rescue remedy I was a different person. I saw another doctor (specialising in mental health) who told me I was suffering from stress and prescribed a nighttime remedy which allowed me to sleep well, which in turn made a great difference to my breathing - which incidentally, he told me was hyperventilating! I have since had a spirometry where I was informed that my lung function was normal (above 80%) and my peak flow was 'good'. I hope this helps you!

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