Panic Breathing: What is Hyperventilation Syndrome?

With sudden breathing, every heartbeat sounds like a thunderclap, and sweating becomes more intense. Many people mistake these symptoms for a heart attack. If this is a regular occurrence, it is most likely hyperventilation syndrome. In most cases, hyperventilation (rapid and shallow breathing) goes hand in hand with anxiety or panic disorder. It occurs more often in women than in men. This condition does not threaten your life, but it significantly affects the quality of life.

Dr. Asya

Scientific Advisor

How do you know if you have hyperventilation syndrome?

With stress, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and fear of heights, our breathing can become much faster, which leads to a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood and the appearance of several symptoms. The first, which is most typical, is the feeling of lack of air and a desire to take a deep breath.

Other symptoms include irregular breathing, rapid heartbeat, pain or tightness in the chest, a lump in the throat, dizziness, shortness of breath, frequent yawning or sighing, numbness and tingling in the hands or around the mouth, muscle spasms in the arms and legs, excessive sweating, weakness, confusion, fear, and even issues with the digestive tract.

The attack usually lasts 15–30 minutes, but sometimes up to several hours. If you ignore this condition, it might become chronic over time and suddenly occur with no apparent reason. Fear provokes new attacks, and new attacks provoke fear. A vicious circle emerges.

What to do?

First of all, make sure that it is hyperventilation. To do so, you need to contact a therapist who will prescribe an examination to exclude problems with the heart and lungs.

If the diagnosis of hyperventilation is confirmed, a psychotherapist can help. Typically, treatment includes psychotherapy, sedatives or antidepressants, and breathing exercises.

What if a seizure caught you off guard?

Concentrate on controlling your breathing. The following two exercises will help you feel better:

  1. Curl your lips as if you were blowing out a candle. Inhale slowly through the nose. Then exhale slowly through the mouth. Repeat slowly until you feel normal.
  2. Limit the airflow. Keep your mouth closed and press one nostril closed with your finger. Inhale and exhale through the open nostril. Do not inhale or exhale too quickly. Repeat several times. You can switch to the other nostril if you like. Breathe calmly through your nose—not through your mouth.

23 March 2021

You can discuss. Open this post in the Ornament app and add your opinion.