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British Lung Foundation
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differences between short of breath because of anxiety and shortness of breath because of copd

I know there are different degrees of breathlessness and recovery time from it but can anyone tell me how someone with copd feels when they get breathless compared to someone feeling out of breath through anxiety and hyperthyroidism.also if these feelings of breathlessness started 7 years ago and feel the same now as it does now and theres no wheezing coughing and is not a constant thing but comes and goes meaning for a few days I could walk my dog with no problem but another day take same walk at same pace but feel like I'm short of breath does it sound like anxiety and hyperthyroidism is causing it and aso, if you get your first ever chest infection,does it mean you will get it every time you get a cold.

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16 Replies

Well the answer to your last questions is no. Having said that nearly all mine do and the chances of it happening with lung problems is obviously greater.

Exacerbations (infections) are worsening of existing symptoms ie increased breathlessness, wheezing etc. It would be unusual for this to stop and start like yours unless you had very mild lung disease.

Anxiety can be a cause of breathing problems but it makes sense to ask your doctor to test you for possible lung problems to rule them out.

I hope this helps coughalot x


I also have no cough or wheezing .....but do have short of breath days.

I noticed that as soon as storm clouds or heavy rain was coming I started to gasp. Once the air pressure lifted I was back to my ' normal'.

These past few weeks have been awful.

Oh that's common in low pressure. It affects most of us I think. It certainly does me.

coughalot x

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Hi Coughalot, COPD breathing problems are usually ongoing,getting worse during infections but improving as the infection subsides. Anxiety might add to the breathlessness sometimes. Wheezing reportedly is to do with asthma but I find it occurs with infection too. and coughs can be asthma or COPD, ongoing cough is usually a symptom of COPD but not always. It can be confusing, a good guide line to COPD is the breathing is more noticable when bending down does not go away when you sit down as it progresses, is how I would describe it.

Sorry this reply was for Bev1958, not Coughalot now whose lost the plot then (smiles). Sorry for the mix up x

Thanks, when I first noticed I was getting a bit out of breath along with shakes palpitations I was diagnosed with graves disease as I had symptoms of hyperthyroidism and was given carbimazole and propranolol ,was already taking venlafaxine for anxiety,over the 7 years my thyroid levels were up and down and I never seemed free of the symptoms,even when bloods were within normal range.its only recently I have seen consultant to arrange radioactive treatment which will be done January 2015.i am pretty sure my thinking too much makes symptoms worse and when I had chest infection 2 years ago and was breathless,there was quite a difference between this type of breathlessness and the breathlessness I would normally experience ,with the chest infection after sitting down it would be some time before it passed,whereas if I am walking somewhere I either don't feel any shortness of breath or depending on the weather I may feel my heart is beating faster then I feel a ittle out breath,not gasping or wheezing and can carry on holding a conversation and when I stop its only a minute before I am back to normal. I confess I don't excersise , when my Husband is away I ask my Stepson to walk my dog because I obsess that I will get out of breath if I walk him ,I used to walk to the shops but don't now as when this phobia came on when I had chest inf i had to try to walk to my Dr and every few steps stop for breath and I panicked so now every time I know I have to walk somewhere I am thinking about that experience.So its a mixture of obsessive compulsive disorder,anxiety,phobia,graves disease. II do also try looking on the internet at symptoms but every time shortness of breath is written the first thing mentioned is copd and I really don't think I have symptoms of that because over the 7 years it has not worsened it is no different than then,i don't keep coughing or wheezing and as copd even mild would I am sure over 7 years be worse.I am going to get referred to cognitive therapy to try and sort my head out.

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P.S I also worry about getting another chest infection but have been told on this site that flu jab would not help.Any advise on avoiding getting a chest infection.

Eat plenty of veg and fruit to build up your immunity avoid crowded places and anyone with an infection, I find my steroid inhalers seem to keep infections at bay. If you can when you first notice a cold starting stay in , take paracetamol and keep warm even if only with extra clothes on or blankets wrapped round you. You may be entitled to the flu and pneumonia jab ask at your doctors if not you can pay to have the flu jab if you are that worried think it is less than £10.

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Bev had to reply quickly I see you mention Propananol as a drug you take, this can also cause breathing problems especially if asthmatic but is brilliant for palpitations ect. As you say you don't think it's COPD that's right not all breathing problems are the lungs as in COPD. You need to address your concerns, as you say in your reply to me. Worry about your breathing won't help either take care and try to relax. Must go now as I have an hospital appointment today with the skin specialist.

No I am not asthmatic,but I have often wondered if any of the mediations I take is causing my problems ie---propranolol 160mg, venlafaxine 150mg, carbimazole 20mg ,I also have diazepam2mg to take as required.Hope you got on ok at hospital.

Now you know that some tablets can effect breathing, actually there are many. It does not mean they are the cause of the problem so never just presume that. The hospital visit was pleasant enough but the medical side was not what I expected I could just as well be seeing a GP as a dermatologist. In fact one of my GPs does do skin clinics once a week but it is only an hours session so he can only see a few patients, and they can't do biopsies in that short time either. Before long we won't need Hospitals unless we are dying that's the way the NHS is going. Sorry now I am going off subject. Have a nice day and we can speak again soon, take care x

Chest infections first...they aren't linked to colds. You can get a cold without an infection and an infection without a cold.

Breathlessness. COPD and panic attacks etc are all basically the same reaction in that the way we breath causes them. You have two types of breathing...the main one for all day every day use is from the diaphragm. That is the normal way. However, if due to panic, scare , infection etc we tend to breath at the top of our chest, much like a baby does when it cries....we are in the "fight or flight" mode. It gives the body a boost of oxygen when it needs it for extra exertion. This means that our lungs do not empty properly and also takes a lot of effort and energy. To break the cycle because by now you lungs can't take in any air because you haven't exhaled the old air, you have to bring back the diaphragm breathing.....breathing through the nose as deep as possible but not too deep and out through pursed lips as though you are whistling. The secret now is that before, the best way of dealing with panic attacks was to breath in and out of a paper bag. That idea has been done away with. Now you should be taught to make a noise as you exhale through pursed lips...any noise, it isn't important but form it at the back of your throat. Every time you exhale, listen to the noise and each time try to make it longer than before...and if SOB is cause by COPD or a panic attack, your breathing will improve within one or two minutes.


Very good comment Cornish Brian, I am trying to retrain my breathing to breathe in through my nose, and out through pursed lips, doing breath holds is also supposed to help, but it is taking me awhile to get it to work to ease my breathlessness and fatigue.

The same....I am so out of breathe, how will we know if it's stress related aswell!!somone said get the lungs checked then see what happens..I know it's stress related.


I have asthma, so every time the weather changes, or it rains my asthma flares up. Check to see if it could be asthma.

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