In January of last year I underwent my first panic attack. I have no idea what brought it on but I think it was from having a depressing New Year's "celebration". Anyway, ever since then, my breathing has been out of whack. I have been to the doctor's and have had a lot of tests run and everything seems to be within normal means minus slight heart enlargement that my doctor says is very normal within a lot of people. Ejection fraction was at a healthy 60%, my valves were working fine and my EKG/blood tests that check for heart function all came back perfect. Basically he said I had nothing to worry about and my breathing problems were caused by anxiety. Not satisfied, I had a lung CT scan that came back normal, too.
After these tests, my breathing seemed to have gotten better, but I still have daily episodes where I feel like I can't get a deep breath. I sleep fine and when I'm out with friends, at a concert or watching a movie at the movie theater, I don't notice it until my mind focuses on my breathing and then I feel air hunger and try to take deep breaths. Every day I'm about 99% aware of my breathing. With the majority of people, breathing is involuntary, but with me, it seems like it's voluntary and I can rarely take my mind off of it. When I think about it, I get this air hunger sensation and start to hyperventilate, which in turn gives me panic attacks to the point where I have to go outside and walk around just to calm myself down. I can still exercise like normal and don't get winded even though I feel like I can't breath when I'm sitting there thinking about it, so I know it's mental and not physical.
My doctor put me on Lexapro but that yielded too many sexual side effects that after a month, I stopped taking it. It didn't seem to be doing anything, though, and my doctor said it takes about two weeks to "kick in". I'm currently in a PhD program at Case Western Reserve University and even in my classes, when completely consumed in study, I don't notice this problem, until my mind shifts off of my work and onto my breathing, then all of a sudden the air hunger hits.
Really I'm at a loss anymore. All my organs are healthy and I have a 98% blood oxygen level. My blood pressure is constantly under 125/70 depending on the time of day and I have no stamina loss or energy loss. Unfortunately, I always feel like my heart is going to stop or something was missed at the doctor's office that's going to kill me. This is depressing my mother because where she sees such a bright future ahead of me, as I pursue my PhD degree, I make comments like, "I hope I graduate before I die." Needless to say, she's tired of my depressing remarks, as am I. There use to be a time where I looked forward to the future, and now I constantly think I'm going to die before I hit forty.
I was diagnosed with "slight" obsessive-compulsive behavior last year as well as "breathing awareness" and anxiety/panic attacks. I am also a known hypochondriac. I refuse to take medications because of the chance of weight gain. I watch my weight extensively and keep myself fit. Gaining weight would simply depress me to an uncontrollable point and I'm not willing to risk the chance, especially when I hear of people gaining as much as 40lbs in a three month period. I know my breathing isn't as bad as some people with these problems, but it's still quite irritating. With my PhD program and my job riding my back, thinking about my breathing every day has become a real hindrance. Any help/feedback would be greatly appreciated.
You sound like me in so many ways! I get the breathing problem too. It is hyperventilation syndrome, I believe... The only advice I have is to maybe try some relaxation techniques, etc... like yoga, meditation, reiki, reflexology, massages, acupuncture, etc... I'm not really sure what else to tell you. I fear gaining weight too and I really do not want to go on meds either. Sometimes, when I get too conscious of my breathing, I force myself to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth... I resist the deep breath that I "think" is needed. It's hard to do, but if you can resist it and just keep breathing in and out as really needed, you will be fine and it will break the habit of trying to get a deep breath. My other suggestion is maybe to try something herbal. Valerian root, neurocalm, certain teas, etc..
I feel bad because I know what you are going through and it really can make living a complete mess! I'm sorry you are going through this. I hope you find something that works!
I agree with the previous post. Meditation will help a lot. Also, not all medication causes weight gain. The Benzodiazepenes do not cause weight gain and they work great for anxiety and panic which is mostly what you described. The meditation will also help with your OCD as well. Do some research into Mindfulness Meditation.
The problem seems to act up the less sleep I have, or if I have a big test I'm studying for or whatnot. Seems to be fueled solely by stress though my "respiratory awareness" certainly isn't helping the matter...
During the summer I don't remember it happening nearly as often as it is now. That may be attributed to the fact that I didn't have the stress of school or this weather keeping me inside most of the time. In the summer time I usually work on my car and keep busy which keeps me from focusing on my breathing, which in turn keeps my hyperventilating to a minimum.
I've been considering finding a breathing specialist to go to that will help "retrain" my breathing pattern so this doesn't bother me so much.
I have tried the laying on the back and breathing through the nose and out of the mouth, and that helps for a little but, but then it comes back again.
Hi there. I am very conscious of my own breathing process too. In particular I worry about not breathing altogther, or breathing too much. My breathing feels so unnatural to me whereas, as you point out, it should be involuntary. It shouldn't really 'feel' like anything, it should just happen, without intervention or thought. Unfortunately, however, I think about it constantly, especially when I am trying to sleep or when I am at the cinema, for example.
What I recommend you do is this: face your fear by breathing however you want. Don't worry or cogitate about it, just do it however feels right, or even wrong. The problem with us, in my opinion, is that because we are scared we are holding back, we are scared to let go of our conscious control. But such control is not only unncessary, it is phychologically harmful. Therefore, in order to overcome it, you need to withdraw your restraints, and see for your self that there is nothing to fear. Remind yourself that, even if you breathe erratically and unconventionlly, you will come to no harm. At the very worst, you will have a panic attack or pass out. Neither of which will cause you harm. So let go, take a risk, have the courage to do it it once and then don't look back.
You may want to see a speach pathologist and they will give you breathing exercises to relax the muscles in your throat. I see one because of vocal cord dysfunction...I am always with air hunger which puts me in panic attacks. I don't know which came first...the panic or the VCD... but now it's all I pay attention to. Anyway, see a specialist to retrain yourself normal breathing patterns.