When most people think of an asthma trigger they think of pollen or pet dander, however, it’s just as important to acknowledge that one’s emotional state can be a common trigger for acute asthma attacks. And while everything from laughing to feeling angry can cause an asthma attack, feelings of depression and anxiety are the most common emotion-related asthma triggers.
It’s important to note that asthmatics that also suffer from chronic anxiety or depression disorders can be subject to frequent and dangerous asthma attacks as a result. Here’s a list of how depression and anxiety affect asthma, and how to cope with these emotional and mental asthma triggers.
How Do Depression and Anxiety Affect Asthma?
While no one quite knows why asthma seems to thrive off of emotional and psychological distress, recent studies show that feelings of depression and anxiety can trigger severe asthma attacks. However, it has been suggested that since depression and anxiety disrupt the balance of brain chemicals and hormones, this disruption may be the cause of the increased amount of asthma attacks. Additionally, it is not uncommon for persons suffering from a chronic illness like asthma to also develop feelings of depression and anxiety.
People with emotional disorders such as depression find it difficult to fend off autoimmune diseases that may affect the upper respiratory system, such as bronchitis. Once these diseases have taken hold, they cause the airways to be inflamed and can lead to serious asthma attacks.
Finally, those suffering from depression and anxiety are so physically and emotionally drained, it can limit their ability to care for themselves. Therefore, asthmatics with depression and anxiety may neglect to take their medication or monitor their breathing.
What is the Difference Between Asthma and an Anxiety Attack?
Lightheadedness, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath are symptoms of both asthma and anxiety attacks, which is why they often get mistaken for one another. The significant difference between an asthma and panic attack are that you can die from asphyxiation associated with a severe asthma attack, whereas a panic attack does not require emergency medical attention. Additionally, while someone can suffer from asthma attack for several hours, panic attacks are usually only five to 10 minutes in duration.
However, where it gets tricky is that many asthmatics also suffer from severe anxiety and experience anxiety attacks that, in turn, become emotional triggers for asthma attacks. If you suffer from anxiety and asthma, it’s important to let your loved ones and co-workers know about your dual disorders, and to create an asthma action plan that factors in your anxiety.
Because it’s hard to tell the difference between an asthma and anxiety attack, you should always call emergency personnel in the event that a loved one or co-worker is experiencing asthma / anxiety attack symptoms.
How to Cope with Having Depression, Anxiety, and Asthma
As that depression, anxiety, and asthma are all separate disorders it is important to take your medication and follow your doctor’s instructions when dealing with each one. But since depression and anxiety are the stressors that trigger asthma attacks, it’s also best to find ways to avoid and treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Things like:
- Relaxation or yoga breathing
These holistic treatments have been proven to help significantly decrease the intensity of depression and anxiety. By finding a way to deal with or avoid your emotional stressors, it should help substantially decrease the frequency and severity of your asthma attacks.
In addition, making healthy life choices can also reduce the severity of your depression and anxiety. These include:
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day
- Taking multivitamin supplements
- Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants Omega 3s and vitamin D
- Making sure you maintain adequate sleep hygiene
- Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
- Making sure you’re exposed to sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Only drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages in moderation
Now that you know the effects that depression and anxiety can have on asthma, be sure to take the proper precautions to ensure that your asthma symptoms do not worsen. If you would like to discuss how depression and anxiety affect your asthma in greater detail, be sure to reach out to Dr. Mayank Shukla at your earliest convenience.