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Not Just Heart Or Lung Disease, Breathlessness Can Be A Symptom Of Anxiety Too

Breathlessness is not always due to lung or heart disease, but it can also be a symptom of anxiety.

Varun Verma
Written by: Varun VermaUpdated at: May 15, 2023 14:26 IST
Not Just Heart Or Lung Disease, Breathlessness Can Be A Symptom Of Anxiety Too

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Shortness of breath or breathlessness is one of the symptoms of heart or lung disease, but this is not true in all cases. It can be one of the indicators that you might be suffering from anxiety. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 301 million people were living with anxiety disorders in 2019. It can manifest in different ways, including panic attacks, phobias, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), among others. Anxiety-related breathlessness is just one of the many symptoms of anxiety, and it can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life.

How Is Breathlessness Linked To Anxiety? 

Dr MS Kanwar, Pulmonologist, Senior Consultant and Advisor, Department of Pulmonary, Fortis Hospital, Delhi, shares the information with his followers on Instagram. In a video, he said, "It is not always necessary that if you experience shortness of breath, you have heart or lung disease. There are various reasons for this, including obesity."

Obesity can be a contributing factor to breathlessness. Obesity can cause the lungs to work harder to supply oxygen to the body, which can result in shortness of breath. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight and a balanced diet can help alleviate the symptoms of breathlessness.

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He further added, "But in many people, especially in young individuals and more often in girls, the shortness of breath can be due to anxiety." A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health stated that there is a strong connection between anxiety and respiratory symptoms, including the shortening of breath. 

Dr Kanwar explained that some people may experience spells where they feel breathless, while others may take a deep breath, which seems like a deep breath.


Since breathlessness is linked to the heart and lungs, diagnostic tests like lung function or radiology imaging are done. “Often these diagnostic tests show no result. In these cases, the diagnosis of the symptoms is generally linked to anxiety, and the condition may be called psychogenic dyspnea," he added.

Symptoms Of Anxiety-Related Breathlessness

The symptoms of psychogenic dyspnea may include:

  • Shortening of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or pain 
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of suffocation

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be present in other medical conditions, like anxiety, allergy, pneumonia, or low blood pressure. So it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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How To Treat Anxiety-Related Breathlessness?

The first step in treating anxiety-related breathlessness is to address the underlying anxiety. Dr Kanwar said, "We try to reassure patients that they are okay, while in some cases, we need to give them anti-anxiety medications too." In addition, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and regular exercise can help improve breathing and reduce the anxiety symptoms.


Anxiety-related breathlessness can be a frightening experience, and individuals who experience it may be reluctant to seek medical help for fear of being diagnosed with a severe illness. However, it is crucial to seek medical attention to rule out any severe medical conditions, like heart or lung disease.

Image Credits: freepik