Have you ever noticed that when you are having trouble breathing, you become increasingly anxious, which makes you start to panic, which in turn causes you to become even more short of breath? This common sequence is known as the dyspnea cycle.
Dyspnea, more commonly known as shortness of breath, can be described as the sensation of having the urge to breathe which results from a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. It is one of the hallmark symptoms of COPD, and can also be the most frightening.
Understanding the Cycle
To learn how to break the dyspnea cycle, you must first understand it. When you start to feel short of breath, you worry you are not getting enough air, which causes anxiety. Anxiety makes you breath harder and faster, which makes the dyspnea worse. This is when panic sets in.
When people experience this, it can be so distressing that they start to limit their activities in order to avoid anything that may cause them to feel shortness of breath. Not only does this eventually end up taking all the joy out of life, but being sedentary can lead to many other problems, like obesity, which makes it even tougher to breathe.
How to Break the Dyspnea Cycle
Follow these steps to break the dyspnea cycle:
- Take control -- During an episode of dyspnea, take control using diaphragmatic breathing with pursed lips.
- Pace yourself -- Pacing yourself helps to conserve energy which will allow you to do more before dyspnea gets out of hand.
- Exercise -- Daily exercise will help you handle more activity with less shortness of breath.
The dyspnea cycle is not only frightening, but can lead to feelings of sadness and worry. If these feelings become overwhelming, they can start to interfere with daily life. Depression is also linked to COPD exacerbation. The good news is that anxiety and depression are treatable medical conditions. Talk with your doctor to see what treatment options are available to you. Once depression and anxiety are under control, your overall health will improve and you can start to enjoy life again.
Need help managing panic and panic disorder in COPD? Read 9 Ways to Manage Panic Attacks in COPD.
How do you break the dyspnea cycle? Please share your tips by in the COPD Forum.
Living Well with Chronic Lung Disease. The StayWell Company. 2005. /