I have a weird breathing problem, I feel like I only take half breaths. Maybe anxiety..
June 1, 2009 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I have a weird breathing problem, I feel like I only take half breaths. Maybe anxiety..

Well I really believe it's psychological.. it's similar to anticipatory anxiety, like when you hold your breath on a game winning free throw..

Only I tend to do that a lot, and I'll catch myself.. It's become a pretty consistent thing during the whole day, but worst time is at work on the computer all day.

I'm always adjusting my belt, because it feels like I'm full, and the pressure against my stomach makes it feel like it stops me from inhaling all the way. What I don't like is my chest muscles tighten up, and being that they're over my heart.. gives me some bad ideas...

If I literally grab my chest muscles with my fingers, and consciously make myself breath normal, it feels fine briefly.

One time I let out a lot of (gross ;p) gas, (you get the picture) and I felt good for a few days.

Could it be that? But I've felt this way for months, maybe a year. And I feel fine on weekends, when I'm free, happy, and not locked down to a sitting position.
posted by 0217174 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
I've no idea if you have some kind of gas or bloating problem, but for starters, practice breathing out fully.

Usually the 'can't breath in' feeling when someone is kind of panicking or anxious is because your lungs are not empty - you have too much air in them to breath in.
Try breathing out twice for each inbreath, just to be sure (ie breath out, then force an extra puff out so you're completely empty - even try bending over as you do the extra breath to force the air out).

Make sure there is plenty of room around your stomach (ie belt) so that you can breath in - by the way, you should be breathing more from your stomach, not your chest.
posted by Elysum at 5:37 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most of the time you shouldn't even be breathing half way.

Your lungs have considerable overcapacity. They're the size they are so that you can run and perform heavy labor, during which oxygen consumption can be three or four times as much as when you're at rest.

So when you are at rest, it's normal to only breath a small amount, a partial stroke as it were.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:55 PM on June 1, 2009

By the way, trying to breath too much when you're at rest can lead to respiratory alkalosis. Hyperventilation causes excess CO2 loss, resulting in a rise of blood pH. This is not uncommon in cases of anxiety.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:03 PM on June 1, 2009

I've had the problem of half-breaths in the past and finally was able to solve it with antacids. Apparently, I wasn't having the burn of heartburn, but the pressure. I would say that 4-5 tums would solve the problem mostly. This might not be your problem, but tums aren't that expensive to try at least.
posted by aetg at 6:32 PM on June 1, 2009

Ok I might try some tums.. as the most noticeable thing I feel is that it's coming from my chest muscles pushing.. so maybe it's pressure like you had.

About breathing, I can force myself--somewhat meditation style-- to breath slow, but I have to consciously maintain it. Once my mind drifts off, I'm back to this half breathing.

posted by 0217174 at 6:48 PM on June 1, 2009

Yoga is a good way of training your body into healthy breathing habits.
posted by storybored at 7:41 PM on June 1, 2009

Most of the time you shouldn't even be breathing half way.

I don't think overcapacity is the issue here. I've noticed something similar in myself, 0217174, and tend to see it as a habitual thing from childhood anxiety, along with just general high-strungness. It definitely bothers me during the day when I notice I've been shallowly breathing, as if I've been anxious for a while with no provocation. I worry it has a feedback loop effect, increasing the shallowness, and thus the feeling of anxiety, etc. Exercise definitely helps, and I've started doing yoga, because it seems the most focused and gentle way to address the issue, with a long history of success at breath control behind it. But I've also been thinking about talking to a therapist/psychiatrist about it. It doesn't seem right that I regularly find myself breathing as if I'm in a stressful situation when I'm not.

In short, I don't think this is something you should ignore, as Chocolate Pickle seems to imply.
posted by mediareport at 8:06 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had this exact problem (especially if anyone mentioned breathing).

Saw several doctors, who all concluded it was psychological. Two things that mostly solved it:

1. Yoga
2. Wearing looser pants & shorts

Good luck!
posted by mikeyk at 8:08 PM on June 1, 2009

Yes, do yoga. If you have some underlying anxiety, that can cause a lot of tension in your body, and yoga is a good way to loosen yourself up. Also there is a lot of emphasis on breathing naturally and easily, which might help.
posted by number9dream at 8:12 PM on June 1, 2009

Take more frequent breaks from sitting.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:15 PM on June 1, 2009

If you think it's anxiety, then it probably is. If you're experiencing the feeling more in front of your computer at work, my guess is that work is a little stressful right now, yes? Find yourself a good mental health professional. They know exactly how to help you get your breath back. You probably just need a little tune-up, that's all!
posted by Lukenlogs at 11:40 PM on June 1, 2009

When I jog, I often find my breathing 'tightens' so I feel almost breathless. I really have to force myself to take regular, full breaths. I found that pursing my lips when I exhale, like I'm blowing out a candle, gets my breathing back to normal. Might be worth a shot...
posted by pants at 4:51 AM on June 2, 2009

Your description sounds similar to how I would describe an asthma attack. I would see a doctor about this.
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:19 AM on June 2, 2009

When I was around 7-8 I learned from a routine checkup that I had a slightly deformed valve in my heart. Not dangerous, but various doctors have asked me through the years if I ever feel out of breath for no reason. Well, I sometimes do. When I was a kid I thought it was normal. The problem would surface for months, then go away completely and then return again. Usually I try to force a yawn, which makes me feel fine for some reason. Other times I need to breathe heavily and perform some sort of "sigh" (which made my teacher pretty angry at times, she thought I was making a point).

I'm 31 now and do not consider this a big problem. The chances you're experiencing the same are slim, but I thought I'd post this anyway. I can't remember the medical term for this, but I guess a stethoscope and a doctor would quickly rule anything out.
posted by SurrenderMonkey at 10:41 AM on June 2, 2009

I'd work on learning some meditation breathing.

Here's my suggestion: try taking four counts- 1, 2, 3, 4- to inhale. Then try to hold your breath for four counts. Then exhale slowly for four counts. Maybe hold it again for another 4 counts at the bottom. And practice, practice, practice.

I tend to be a shallow breather too, and my meditation instructor said that's a sign of anxiety, and kind of being in "fight or flight" mode all the time. It's hard to remember to take deep breaths outside of class, mind you, but I try to these days.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:02 PM on June 2, 2009

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