If you suffer from anxiety, you may have experienced a tightening of the chest and heavy or labored breathing. Panic attacks make it particularly difficult to breathe steadily. This is especially scary for asthmatics. If you suffer from a chronic lung condition, you might be wondering, can a panic attack lead to an asthma attack? Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Panic Attack?
First, let’s identify what a panic attack is. A panic attack is a sudden onslaught of fear and anxiety that causes physical symptoms. Sometimes, panic attacks occur during highly stressful situations, while at other times, they appear randomly with no tangible problem evident. Panic attacks are common among individuals with chronic anxiety and are incredibly scary for anyone who experiences them.
Common symptoms of panic attacks include difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, body tremors, increased heart rate, chills, sweating, dizziness, nausea, and numbness. They can last for minutes or for hours, but either way, they are far from pleasant.
Can Panic Attacks Lead to Asthma?
Whether or not a panic attack triggers your asthma primarily depends on what type of asthma you suffer from. If you mostly experience asthma symptoms during allergy season, you are more likely to react to pollen than to anxiety. Likewise, exercise-induced asthma tends to flare up during periods of rigorous physical exertion.
That said, many people suffer from anxiety-induced asthma, which occurs when you have difficulty catching your breath due to overwhelming panic. The inability to draw in oxygen causes your airways to constrict and makes it even more difficult to take a breath. Likewise, the more difficult it is to take a breath, the harder you panic. This unfortunate cycle is extremely frightening if you haven’t taken steps to prepare for it. Fortunately, if you are prone to panic attacks, you can be on guard against panic-induced asthma attacks.
Ways to Soothe Panic Attacks
To prevent your panic attack from turning into a full-blown asthma attack, try applying the following tips.
1. Identify whether it’s anxiety or an asthma attack.
During the moment, it is difficult to determine why you are having difficulty breathing. However, remember that a panic attack does not turn off your lungs. Steady breathing during a panic attack requires focus, but it is physically possible. On the other hand, an asthma attack prevents your lungs from taking in the proper amount of oxygen, so an inhaler may be necessary.
2. Learn deep breathing exercises.
Not only are breathing exercises good for anxiety, but they also increase overall lung strength. To prepare for possible panic attacks, practice various breathing techniques that you can employ when you feel anxious.
3. Close your eyes and focus on relaxing.
Learn how to ground yourself by closing your eyes to the world around you and fully relaxing your muscles. While you relax each muscle individually, think about your happiest place, person, or moment. This draws you away from the problem or situation that instigated your panic. You can also ground yourself by focusing on a tangible, nearby object.
4. Walk away from what you are doing.
When you are feeling anxious about a particular task or situation, walking away from it is extremely difficult. However, moving on to something else until you relax helps you face the situation with a better outlook.
5. Exercise lightly.
Taking a quick jog or doing a few jumping jacks often reduces your panic and gives your body something else to focus on. Ask your doctor whether relaxation or physical activity is better for your anxiety or asthma.
What if it’s an Asthma Attack?
Remember, anxiety and asthma attacks can feed off of each other. Even if your asthma attack begins with allergies or exercise, it can turn into a panic attack also. No matter what type of asthma you have, it is extremely important to develop an asthma attack action plan.
An asthma attack action plan simply outlines your course of action in the event of an asthma attack or flare-up. It lists breathing exercises, medication, when to take your inhaler, when to call your doctor, etc.
Additionally, monitoring your lung health with testing and data tracking helps you create a more accurate action plan. Talk to your doctor about at-home lung testing, as well as any new symptoms or triggers that may display themselves. Likewise, if you suspect you suffer from chronic anxiety or panic attacks, ask your doctor how to best control them with your asthma in mind.