Asthma or anxiety?


I was told a few years back that I'm asthmatic (by the asthma nurse at my local doctors) and although I've definetely had problems with breathing I also suffer from panic attacks and I find myself wondering if my panic attacks cause my issues with breathing.

When I panic, I naturally get short of breath and wheeze and much of the time it passes after I've called down.

I've been prescribed inhalers, but am always in two minds about taking them (despite being told I should) because I always worry that it's actually just anxiety causing the problem, although having said that I know that anxiety can make asthma worse.

Does anyone else suffer with both and have any advice?

8 Replies

  • i have an asthma since I am a child, after getting married (a big changed in my life and routine) I experienced shortness of breath, my GP gave me an inhaler for maintenance, I didn't follow it (haha) then it gets worse until I got hospitalized. After being hospitalized it took me for so long before getting recovered because of the stress of getting sick. Then I experienced panic attacks too. I had consulted a total of 5 different doctors until I found someone I can really trust (anxiety causes a lot of trust issues too I guess) its only been a month now and I'm still gaining my strength. Its really an ordeal.

    I think you should take their advice and do your best to recover from anxiety. But it is much more better if you take another advice from a different doctor preferably a Pulmonologist or immunologist. Yes anxiety and stress will make asthma so much worse.God bless you.

  • This is my advice and apologies if it sounds a bit preachy, I don't mean to be. Please learn from my mistakes and knowledge gained over 50 years of Asthma, Anxiety and Depression.

    Please, please take the medication that the doctors have recommended. Panic Attacks make your Asthma symptoms worse, as can Anxiety, they do not cause Asthma which is a pretty existing condition. Take the medication, and work with your GP to control your Asthma. If your physical health is strong, you will be more able to cope with the stress and panic of what life throws at you. Don't be afraid to ask for help in whatever form it takes, be it this, or other forums. I am sure Yoga will have been me mentioned, mindfulness as well (though I have yet to go on a course for this). The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps me. I still panic, get stressed, but then I start thinking and questioning my thoughts, and get myself back under control. It takes times, I know. PLEASE take the meds. Warm hugs. Anne

  • Holly, I understand completely how you feel as I have asthma and also anxiety/panic attacks. However, I have found a pattern over the years and now that I understand it I am managing better than I ever did before. Basically, I find that when my asthma is well controlled I don't have any problems with anxiety but when my asthma is really bad for a prolonged period my anxiety level rises and I get panic attacks several times a day. Having looked through the information that comes with the medications I have found that most of them include anxiety amongst the side effects, which would tie in with the fact that the anxiety seems to kick in when I've had to maximise my meds for more than a few days goes away when I'm back in control and on minimal meds.

    So, my advice is that you should bear in mind that 3 people die of asthma every day so you absolutely need to take your asthma meds and get that under control. The next thing to do is get on top of the anxiety. You could look for a self help group nearby and/or try MoodGYM, which is an online CBT training programme, or ask your GP for help. I'm not for a second saying that this will be easy but if you persevere you WILL learn to manage the anxiety.

    The last thing you need to do is take note of when the anxiety is most problematic. It could be caused by the asthma which, when you think about it is quite reasonable because being unable to breathe is extremely scary. It could also be due to the meds or it may have nothing to do with either, but you will be able to work that out over time.

    Good luck with it. Annie.

  • I think everyone's right treating your asthma is number one priority and this will bring down your anxiety. Only had one panic attack in my life and remember it vividly. This was before I had asthma. Having the diagnosis of asthma is life changing but not the end of your life. It can be hard to get your head around it and yes there are times when you want to" throw toys out of the pram." I pray that you can get your head around things. Knowledge always helps me but getting it from the right place. Please don't google it. Asthma uk is the best place. Ring their helpline they are so good and there for us with asthma. We all hear for you.

  • It's easy to imagine that asthma and anxiety go hand in hand due to the physiological aspects. General connections anatomically but I would have imagined that the asthma should come first. I think the advice given to you here is really good to make sure that you get your Asthma under control in a way that you find works for you and look at different areas of your life to see if there are any triggers which has helped me a lot. I believe mine has been linked to the Menopause which I have read does happen. Having low level hormones can cause anxiety as well as they are involved in working with the adrenal system and in turn the immune system. Not sure if that's an issue for you but it's one that I found particularly helpful through this forum (:

  • Firstly like everyone else has said, please take your inhalers if you have been advised. When I saw the specialist in the hospital at my first admission he talked about asthma and panicking, explaining the two go hand in hand and that panic is a perfectly normal reaction.

    Being unable to breathe can cause extreme anxiety and panic, so if having the inhalers helps you deal with that then do take them. You should also ask your doctor for some kind of therapy to help you deal with your panic and anxiety; CBT can be very useful.

  • Hi to be diagnosed with asthma you should have been tested on a peak flow metre. This measures your breathing, how much you can breathe out in 1 second and how long you can breathe out for etc. If you cannot breathe out the norm for your age group, weight etc. then you can be diagnosed with asthma. Why not ask for a peak and flow metre from your asthma nurse then you can keep tables on it yourself?

    If you have been diagnosed with asthma it is very important you use your inhalers as instructed. Even if it's just anxiety they will help you breathe better and why take chances when you don't have to? The inhalers aren't harmful to you - they are just to help you breathe, that's all. x

  • Hi,

    Thank you all for the good advice :) I will keep taking my inhalers; I remember my seretide one mostly day and might!

    As I said I was professionally diagnosed with asthma but do question if it is just anxiety. But, like coughalot2 said if the inhalers help with my breathing (which they do) then what can it hurt you know?

    I do often feel a little but embarrassed to have/ use my reliever inhaler in public in case I get judged by others. As odd as it sounds, but if I'm in a public place and need to use it I will mostly excuse myself and go into the toilets or somewhere private to use it without being awkward. Maybe that's my anxiety or just me being an awkward teenager!

    I do have counselling for anxiety and PTSD and was previously on meds for panic disorder. It makes me feel a bit better knowing others have similar issues to me; sending love and support to all of you who do!

    Oh and also yoga definetely does help! As well as helping with stress it does help with keeping your body physically strong (I especially need this as I'm a dancer!)

    Holly :)

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