How to Tell If Shortness of Breath is From Anxiety

Chest Pain & Heart Attack

Jun 3, 2022


Nowadays we wouldn’t blame you if feeling short of breath made you think you have a health issue (like asthma or COVID-19), but knowing how to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety can help you identify the root of the problem.

Shortness of breath is a very common symptom of many health conditions, so it is normal to feel anxious when you’re feeling short of breath and to feel short of breath when you’re anxious. Whether you have a long medical history of asthma or just ran five miles, it’s important to understand what causes shortness of breath and how to identify what may be causing it so that you can establish the proper treatment strategy. 

What causes shortness of breath?

Feeling like you’re having trouble breathing in enough air is an uncomfortable sensation. What can cause chest pain and shortness of breath? A healthy person may feel out of breath from vigorous exercise, very high temperatures, or high altitudes. 

However, if you feel short of breath for no obvious reason, it could be a sign of an underlying heart or lung issue. Contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

Does anxiety cause shortness of breath?

Many patients ask questions regarding the correlation between anxiety and feeling short of breath — for example, “can stress cause shortness of breath?”The answer is yes. Feeling short of breath is a common symptom of anxiety and typically will go away once the anxious feelings dissipate. But why does this happen? 

When a person is experiencing anxiety, their body responds to feelings of fear. This is a psychological phenomenon in which the body’s fight-or-flight response is activated and it triggers certain actions to prepare itself. One of these preparations is having the person breathe in air more quickly to allow more oxygen to get to the muscles. This will often result in shortness of breath. 

Shortness of breath coupled with the following symptoms may be similar to ones of anxiety, but could also be symptoms of underlying cardiac issues. Either way, it would be wise to get a medical professional’s opinion.

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating 
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Overwhelming feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease

As mentioned before, the uncomfortable sensation of feeling like you’re catching your breath will eventually go away. But how can you tell if an anxiety attack is an emergency that requires medical attention?

When is anxiety an emergency?

If chest pain or pressure, fainting or nausea accompanies shortness of breath, you should treat it as a medical emergency and seek emergency treatment as soon as possible. Here are some common questions that patients have about emergency anxiety treatment.

Q: Can you pass out from anxiety?

It’s very unlikely that you will pass out from anxiety. Fainting is caused by a significant drop in blood pressure whereas a panic attack will slightly increase your blood pressure.

Q: When you have anxiety does your blood pressure go up?

Anxiety can cause temporary spikes in blood pressure due to the body’s reaction to stress hormones, but it usually does not cause long-term hypertension. If this is a concern of yours, speak with your doctor.

Q: What do they give you at the hospital for anxiety?

If you decide to head to the emergency room for a panic attack, you will be given a full-service checkup. As for treatment, most shortness of breath is manageable with appropriate medication, breathing techniques, and exercise. If the doctor deems it necessary, they might prescribe medication that helps with anxiety, depression, and/or an irregular heartbeat.

Feeling short of breath? Not sure if it’s anxiety? Stop by a Complete Care ER facility for help.

Knowing how to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety can help you to create a treatment plan. If you begin to notice any of the symptoms mentioned above and believe you are having an anxiety attack, head to an emergency room as soon as you can. If you begin to feel shortness of breath without an obvious reason, you should speak with your doctor about any underlying heart or lung issues. 

Complete Care is a freestanding emergency medical facility that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our medical professionals are fully equipped to help you treat any anxiety or underlying health problems you may be experiencing. 

We have ER locations in both Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, Tyler, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs) that offer full emergency medical services with minimal wait times and no surprise billing.  

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