Addiction Recovery

Anxiety: How to Tell if Shortness of Breath is from Anxiety?

Can anxiety cause shortness of breath? If you've ever felt an anxiety attack, you know the answer. Our blog examines this symptom of anxiety and more.

Can Anxiety Cause Shortness of Breath? We Answer This Question and More

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

November 9, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Stress and anxiety are all too common in today's fast-paced society, impacting millions of people from all walks of life. The feeling of being out of breath is one of the defining signs of anxiety; it is an unpleasant symptom that may be both puzzling and terrifying.

This blog clarifies the complex connection between anxiety and this specific respiratory condition. We'll go in-depth on the subject to show you how to determine whether your breathlessness is indeed caused by anxiety.

Anxiety: Is it a Silent Epidemic?

The "silent epidemic" of our day, anxiety, is a complicated mental health condition that can appear in many ways. Breathlessness is one of its many varied symptoms that is common. Even though it is a psychological condition, anxiety has significant physical impacts on our body, including how we breathe. Shortness of breath from anxiety is a frequent symptom of anxiety in people who experience it.

What is Anxiety?

Before knowing if shortness of breath is from anxiety, we must first understand what anxiety is. Anxiety is comparable to your unpleasant sensation when you are afraid or worried about something. It's how your body responds to stressful situations. Because it makes you more aware, it can occasionally be normal and even beneficial. 

However, it may become a problem if you experience anxiety too frequently, excessively, or over situations that aren't harmful. At that point, we refer to it as an "anxiety disorder." You may experience a variety of unpleasant sensations, including a racing heart, sweaty hands, and extreme jitteriness. 

Additionally, it might cause you to make assumptions and worry excessively about potential future events. So, while anxiety is a common emotion, it may be challenging to manage when it spirals out of control.

How to Tell if Shortness of Breath is from Anxiety?

It can occasionally be challenging to tell if shortness of breath is caused by anxiety or another underlying reason. Still, there are several important aspects and symptoms to take into account.

Here are some measures to help you examine the issue if you think your shortness of breath is caused by anxiety:

Understand Anxiety Symptoms

Learn about the typical signs and symptoms of anxiety, which might include a rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, restlessness, excessive concern, and terror. Breathing difficulties and anxiety tend to be correlated.

Rule Out Medical Conditions

Consult a physician to rule out any underlying medical disorders causing your shortness of breath. Breathing problems can also result from asthma, allergies, heart problems, or respiratory infections. Get a thorough assessment to ensure your symptoms are not due to a medical problem.

Identify Triggers

Pay attention to where and when you experience breathlessness. Shortness of breath brought on by anxiety frequently results from stressful circumstances, social interactions, or particular triggers that make you feel anxious.

Monitor Breathing Patterns

Keep an eye on your breathing when you experience feeling short of breath. Rapid, shallow breathing or hyperventilation may be symptoms of anxiety-related respiratory problems. It's possible that you feel like you're having trouble breathing or not receiving enough oxygen.

Psychological Symptoms

Keep track of any further psychological side effects that the feeling of shortness of breath may bring on. 

Previous Anxiety Experiences

Consider if you have a history of anxiety or have previously experienced symptoms associated with anxiety. A history of anxiety problems may be a good sign.

Reaction to Relaxation Methods

When you experience breathlessness, try relaxing methods like mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises. If you discover that using these strategies helps you breathe better, it may be because of anxiety.

Get a Professional Opinion

Consult a mental health expert or therapist with experience in anxiety problems if you are unsure what's causing your shortness of breath. To identify whether anxiety is a contributing issue, they can complete an examination and offer advice on the best course of action.

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What Does Shortness of Breath from Anxiety Feel Like?

The shortness of breath brought on by anxiety may be quite upsetting, and individuals often describe the feeling differently. A common description of shortness of breath brought on by anxiety is "air hunger." Even when attempting to breathe deeply, it feels like you're not receiving enough air into your lungs. This could make you feel anxious and frustrated.

Rapid, shallow breathing can be brought on by anxiety, which prevents you from taking long, relaxing breaths. You can feel your lungs aren't adequately expanded, and you're simply breathing into your chest. Anxiety-related shortness of breath is frequently accompanied by a tightness or constriction in the chest. Your chest may feel as though it is under pressure or is heavy.

An elevated heart rate brought on by anxiety can worsen the feeling of being out of breath. Your heart can feel like it's racing, making you feel even more anxious. Some people may experience dizziness or lightheadedness when they have anxiety-related shortness of breath. The feeling could become even more uncomfortable as a result.

Shortness of breath brought on by anxiety occasionally causes hyperventilation, which is when you breathe too much and too rapidly. This can further lower the level of carbon dioxide in your blood, which may cause you to feel dizzy or tingling in your fingers and toes. 

Breathing difficulties can be worsened by anxiety and panic, making breathing harder. Breathing problems can lead to worry, heightening anxiety and creating a vicious cycle. You could feel like you cannot inhale deeply despite your best attempts. It seems as though something is preventing you from taking deep breaths.

How To Deal with Anxiety?

Anxiety can be managed, and its symptoms can be reduced by using various strategies and approaches. Here are a few suggestions for overcoming anxiety:

Determine Triggers

Determine what causes your anxiety to start with. Knowing the specific circumstances or ideas that make you anxious might help you deal with them more effectively.

Practicing Breathing

Do deep breathing techniques to reduce stress's effects on your body. Take a slow, deep breath with your nose, hold it for a moment, and slowly let it out through your mouth. Several times, repeat this.

Meditation and Mindfulness

You may calm your racing or worried thoughts and stay in the present moment by using mindfulness practices and meditation. These techniques help people unwind and feel in control.

Physical Exercise

A good technique to relieve anxiety is through regular exercise. Endorphins, which are naturally uplifting chemicals, are released when you exercise. Even a little daily walk can have a big impact.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol and coffee may also make anxiety worse. If you discover they contribute to or worsen your anxiety, cut back on your consumption or avoid them entirely.

Healthy Diet

Consume a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods high in nutrients can improve your overall health and help you feel more stable.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can make anxiety symptoms worse. Establish a pleasant sleeping environment and strive for a regular sleep pattern.

Maintain Contact

Tell your loved ones and friends how you're feeling. Speaking with a trustworthy person might provide emotional support and make you feel less alone.

Set Realistic Goals

Establish attainable goals and divide work into doable, smaller segments. This can help people feel less anxious and stressed.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Think about receiving therapy from a mental health specialist, specifically CBT. CBT enables you to recognize and alter unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns that fuel anxiety.

Anxiety Medication

A doctor's prescription for medicine could be required in specific circumstances. Severe anxiety symptoms can be managed with the help of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.

Restorative Practices

Use relaxation techniques like guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation to relieve physical tension and stress.

Limit Media Exposure

If news and social media tend to cause anxiety or worsen, limit your exposure to them. Maintain knowledge but establish boundaries.


Give your favorite self-care activities, like reading, baths, or hobbies, a top priority. These have the potential to be powerful stress relievers.

Time Management

Organize your time efficiently, set priorities, and avoid overloading yourself with tasks.

Anxiety: Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks share some common features but are distinct experiences. A panic attack is a quick, strong wave of fear or great discomfort that often peaks in minutes. Many physical signs include a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, and shortness of breath. A panic attack can start suddenly, feel like a wave of terror, and happen for no apparent reason.

On the other hand, an anxiety attack is a more continuous and progressive condition of increased concern or stress. Various mental and physical symptoms may be present, although they are often less severe than those of a panic attack. Anxiety attacks are often linked to a specific stressor or ongoing life situation. They may continue for a more extended period.

Social Anxiety Disorder

An extreme fear of social or performance situations is the hallmark of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia. People with the condition commonly experience extreme self-consciousness and worry about being criticized or ashamed in front of others. These social settings can also cause physical sensations, including flushing, sweating, shaking, and a beating heart.

This condition might make attending social gatherings, work-related activities, and school events difficult. Social anxiety may seriously affect a person's personal and professional life, making it difficult for them to build relationships or accomplish their objectives. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy, and, in certain situations, medication to control symptoms and improve daily functioning are all possible forms of treatment. 

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We’re here to help you find your way

Do you have more questions about anxiety? Reach out.

Anxiety Taking Over Your Life? You’re Not Alone: The Forge Recovery Center Will Help

Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, The Forge Recovery Center offers proven, evidence-based care for anxiety disorders and more. Our deep understanding of addiction and the conditions driving it has enabled us to develop a dedicated mental health program aimed at relieving the symptoms of anxiety and more.

Our facility is a refuge where individuals can confidently and effectively confront and conquer their battles with addiction. The Forge’s uncompromising commitment is deeply rooted in evidence-based recovery methods, with a sharp focus on the specialized field of dual-diagnosis care. This comprehensive approach ensures that addiction and the complex maze of underlying mental health issues are expertly addressed.

The Forge Recovery Center goes the extra mile by offering unyielding 24/7 medical support, assuring clients that their safety and well-being are continuously safeguarded throughout their stay. Yet, our dedication to our clients extends beyond mere treatment; it extends to nurturing a welcoming, communal atmosphere where families are wholeheartedly welcomed, and personal devices are allowed. We also offer dedicated mental health housing options.

What truly distinguishes The Forge Recovery Center is our uncompromising belief in the transformative power of experiences. We thoughtfully organize regular outings and adventures, each carefully designed to facilitate authentic connections among residents and promote lasting sobriety. Visitors aren't merely visitors at The Forge Recovery Center; they are greeted with open arms, and their progress is carefully tracked through regular updates. Beyond program completion, our support continues through ongoing assistance for alumni.

If you’d like to have a conversation about mental health and anxiety, just reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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