Hyperventilation Syndrome and Panic Attacks

sheldon hyperventilates

Image courtesy of “Big Bang Theory”


Panic attacks are an unusual mental health disorder. They’re called anxiety disorders, because those that experience panic attacks often either have anxiety issues or experience a significant amount of anxiety during the attack. Yet for most people that suffer from panic attacks, the experience is largely physical. Many of the symptoms are very real, and mimic symptoms of heart problems.

Panic attacks are not entirely understood either. While there are many ways to treat panic attacks, it’s unclear what makes some people susceptible to them and not others.

Some people suffer from panic attacks for no reason at all; others because they’re dealing with a great deal of stress in their lives. Still others may suffer from panic attacks for an unusual reason that not even doctors seem to talk about – hyperventilation syndrome.

What is Hyperventilation Syndrome?

Hyperventilation Syndrome is a controversial medical diagnosis that may occur with or without anxiety. Doctors aren’t clear what causes hyperventilation syndrome, but many believe that it is caused by psychological factors.

The disorder occurs when an individual hyperventilates (breathes in too much oxygen) on a frequent basis. The symptoms include:

  • Chest pains
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness

This is where hyperventilation syndrome appears to be highly linked to panic attacks in some people. It’s possible for someone with panic attacks to hyperventilate because of the fear, and it’s also possible for people to have panic attacks because they’ve been hyperventilating.

It’s that later point that is very interesting, especially when it comes to panic attack treatments. Most treatments assume panic attacks are caused by anxiety – because, admittedly, most panic attacks are caused by anxiety. But when the issue is also related to hyperventilation, tips to control hyperventilation may be valuable.

How Do You Know If You’re Hyperventilating?

It’s best to talk to a doctor to find out if you’re prone to hyperventilation. As mentioned, hyperventilation can be caused by general anxiety. It may also be caused by thinking too much about your breathing or health. If you’re someone that often takes deep breaths or yawns frequently, you may actually be taking in too much oxygen.

If you believe that you are someone that breathes too quickly or takes deep breaths to the point of hyperventilating, the key is to learn how to slow down your breathing. This is often easier said than done.

A mistake that some people make while hyperventilating is choosing to breathe in more air to get a full and deep breath. This is not encouraged. Instead, you should try to sit back and slow down your breathing without worrying about getting a huge amount of air. Many doctors recommend no more than 5 slow and deliberate breaths per minute, in order to restore the right oxygenation balance.

When Hyperventilation Causes Your Panic Attacks

If you believe that you’re someone that is prone to hyperventilation, then it’s important to also learn more about the disorder. One of the reasons that panic attacks cause so much anxiety is because of the feeling as though you don’t know what’s going on. If you’re suffering from hyperventilation disorder, you can use that to your advantage by essentially training your brain to recognize the problem.

This can help reduce the anxiety you experience when you feel the symptoms of hyperventilation, because you’ll learn to recognize them. You’ll also be able to start controlling your breathing, which should reduce the physical symptoms. Panic attacks, like hyperventilation syndrome, are both very real disorders. When they contribute to each other, it’s best to tackle the symptoms of both disorders to overcome them once and for all.

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