Hyperventilation, Anxiety and Panic Attacks

What to Do?

When a person is anxious, breathing rates are very often affected, sometimes severely. Hyperventilation, anxiety and panic attacks are related phenomena, and symptoms of a panic attack may include hyperventilation. When ventilation (or breathing) increases to a rate that is higher than necessary, hyperventilation occurs.The person who is hyperventilating may find his or her breathing out of control and will not be able to catch his or her breath. This can be a frightening feeling that increases anxiety and panic and exacerbates other symptoms.

Symptoms of Hyperventilation.

  • Blurred vision,
  • dizziness,
  • trembling,
  • stiffness
  • numbness
  • tingling in the extremities can all occur when a person hyperventilates for a prolonged period of time.
  • extreme feeling of fear or terror
  • all over weakness
  • clammy sensation
  • racing heartbeat

The relationship between hyperventilation and panic attacks is hard to pinpoint. It is not clear whether hyperventilation causes panic attacks or whether it is one of the possible symptoms of this anxiety disorder. In some cases, hyperventilation mimics panic attack but is not anxiety based.

Whatever the cause, a person who suffers from hyperventilation, anxiety and panic attacks needs to know how to mange symptoms so that breathing can be brought back under control. This is especially important when hyperventilation is related to an anxiety disorder, because the condition itself can easily increase anxiety levels and frequency of panic attacks.

Whenever a person breathes more rapidly or deeply than the body requires, they are said to be hyperventilating. If a person experiences frequent bouts of hyperventilation, anxiety and panic attacks may be the cause. Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing is a common symptom of anxiety, especially when a person is having a panic attack.

Is It Dangerous?

Though hyperventilation is often frightening, it is usually not dangerous. Managing stress and anxiety is key to preventing hyperventilation in the first place since people who suffer from anxiety disorders may be predisposed to hyperventilation and other breathing difficulties

Breathing Techniques.

When hyperventilation does occur, it can be managed with basic breathing techniques. In many cases, hyperventilation can be self-managed in order to regain control of breathing. One way to do this is to sit or lie down and concentrate attention on the breath. Pinch one nostril and breathe through the nose using only one nostril or breathe through pursed lips to slow breathing down to about one breath every five seconds.

Diaphragmatic breathing, or slow, deep breathing from the abdomen, is another very useful technique that can be used to manage hyperventilation.

Because it can change the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, hyperventilation may result in other symptoms, including dizziness, a racing heart, numbness or tingling and even the feeling that one is having a heart attack. These symptoms, which are similar to, and in many cases may be caused by anxiety and panic, will subside once breathing is brought back under control. With practice and perhaps professional guidance if necessary, a person who suffers from hyperventilation, anxiety and panic attacks can learn effective ways to manage symptoms so that future attacks can be avoided.

Wishing you peace and calmness from your friends,

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For much more information on hyperventilation, anxiety and panic attacks click here for our anxiety information page

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