Anxiety And Shortness Of Breath: Causes and Remedies

Shortness of breath is the feeling of not able to get enough air. You may feel as if your breathing is forced, labored or you are being suffocated. Sometimes when anxiety and shortness of breath occur together, you may start panicking and fears may arise that you will suffocate to death. While these fears are unfounded, you should know that when you’re having trouble breathing (shortness of breath) there are some root causes behind it.

There are a number of medical conditions that can lead to the symptom of shortness of breath.

Anxiety is a human emotion that anyone can experience at anytime. However it becomes a psychiatric disorder when a person feels anxious and the problem interferes with daily routine life. Shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of anxiety. An anxious person may feel his/her heart beating fast, and breathing becoming shallow and rapid. Breathing problems while sleeping, shortness of breath when walking, etc can all be caused by anxiety.

Causes Of Anxiety And Shortness of Breath

Anxiety itself can be troubling and when it effects life it can sometimes become a burden.

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of an anxiety disorder.

Shortness of breath is a frightening experience. In some cases shortness of breath causes anxiety while in other cases shortness of breath is caused by anxiety. There is not much difference between the two, and the key is to take anxiety out of the equation.

Other Causes Of Shortness Of Breath

The medical causes for shortness of breath mostly involve underlying heart or lung conditions that put a strain on the breathing. Some of these causes include:

  • Asthma
  • Heart attacks
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pneumonia
  • Upper airway obstruction
  • Heart failure
  • Anemia
  • Broken ribs or trauma to the chest
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Shortness Of Breath When Walking

Shortness of breath may sometimes occur when a person does a physical activity like walking, exercising or climbing stairs. Some research studies categorize the severity of breathlessness on the ability to perform a physical activity of increasing severity without getting breathless. Sometimes anxiety and shortness of breath accompany such physical activities. The severity of shortness of breath can be categorized as follows in increasing order (from top to bottom).

  • No breathlessness.
  • Breathless on vigorous exertion – for example, running.
  • Breathless walking up slopes.
  • Breathless walking at normal pace on a flat surface; having to stop from time to time.
  • Too breathless to leave the house.

Causes For Shortness of Breath When Walking

Experiencing shortness of breath when walking may be due to following reasons:

  • Leading a relatively sedentary life may lead to decreased natural threshold for physical exertion.
  • Exercise induced asthma
  • Decreased blood hemoglobin levels
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy

Remedies For Anxiety And Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is a common experience with anxiety and few simple home remedies could be helpful to contain it. It is always necessary that a health professional rules out other serious causes for shortness of breath which may sometimes be life threatening. But these shortness of breath treatment home remedies are without any drawbacks so you are well covered to try them to see if they help.

Some remedies for anxiety and shortness of breath include:

1. Slow Stomach Breaths

When an anxious person has a sense and feeling of breathlessness, slowing down your breathing so that you are actually breathing a bit less can actually be helpful. By consciously slowing down and taking control of your breathing, you bring anxiety levels down and the breathlessness as well.

Try to breath in and out slowly and don’t worry about yawning or gulping down fast to fill your stomach with air. Instead, slowly breath in through your nose using your stomach, hold for a few seconds and then breath out very slowly through the mouth. This maneuver also helps in maintaining better CO2 levels.

2. Try To Distract Yourself

For many people shortness of breath is caused by getting caught up thinking about your shortness of breath. The thing about anxiety is that, the more you think you’re feeling anxious and losing control, the more likely you will feel anxious and lose control. It is a vicious circle so avoid thinking about your own breathing when you feel short of breath due to anxiety. Distracting your mind may help your breathing to come back under control. Turn on the TV or call someone you know. Just distract yourself.

3. Pursed Lip Breathing 

pursed lip breathingAnother common breathing technique that can help ease shortness of breath is pursed lip breathing. It can quickly slow down rapid breathing and breathlessness and helps relieve anxiety and stress. The best way to practice pursed lip breathing would be:

  • Sit comfortably in a comfortable chair and relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Keep your lips pressed together tightly, leaving a small gap in the center
  • Inhale for a couple of seconds through your nose.
  • Exhale slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to 4.
  • Continue to inhale and exhale for another 10 minutes.
  • Do this regularly and should help with the overall stress and anxiety levels you face
4. Massage

Deep oil massage has been around for ages as a relaxation technique. If you are someone who feels the symptoms of anxiety and shortness of breath frequently, getting deep oil massages once in a while will help sooth your nerves and relieve stress and anxiety.

5. Proper Healthy Diet

A proper healthy diet is essential to get rid of stress and day to day anxiety and the resultant shortness of breath. Also a diet rich in iron and multivitamins protects the body from breathlessness while walking caused by the underlying anemia or malnutrition. A healthy diet consists of the right proportion of fats, good carbs, leafy vegetables, colorful fruits, etc.

6. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

This form of psychotherapy is known to have worked wonders for combating anxiety and shortness of breath. A therapist should be able to guide you towards breathing exercises and analyze the reasons behind the anxiety. Although most people look at cognitive behavioral therapy as a tool to get rid of depression, its uses for other purposes are quite extraordinary and effective.

7. Think Positive

Now this is less of a home remedy and more of a psychological thing. But it is important to realize that all anxiety and personality related disorders come from the mind. Taking control of your thought process goes a long way in getting rid of the problem. Make a habit of thinking positive. Visualize things to make them look positive. See a problem, visualize that it is an opportunity. It’s all in the head. Take control and get rid of anxiety and panic attacks.

8. Steam Inhalation

Shortness of breath and anxiety go hand-in-hand but so does shortness of breath and congestion or a respiratory disease. More often than not, the reason you have problems breathing when anxious is that your airway starts clogging up. A simple steam inhalation at home may solve the problem in the short run.

Passion Flower9. Passion Flower 

Now this one is a slightly left field suggestion to take control of anxiety and breathlessness. Passion flower is a well known herb with sedative properties. It does this by diminishing brain activity and helping it calm down. It has no known side effects and is a much better option than drugs. In the age we live in, sedatives and addiction to them is a major cause of concern. If you can’t control anxiety with other traditional methods on this list, passion flower could be a good option to try.

You can take passion flower in the form of a tea. Just dip 1 tablespoon of dried leaves in a cup for 15 minutes, filter it and gulp it down.


If the symptoms of breathlessness and anxiety can not be controlled by simple home remedies it is always important to consult a doctor to rule out any serious medical disorders. As with all things that hamper your lifestyle, being responsible and aware will serve you well.

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