Finding Support With Asthma
Getting support when you have asthma is important. The people around you — family members, friends, co-workers — can all help. These people should know what to do in case you have a severe asthma emergency. They should also know you can control and manage your asthma. You can find support with asthma through online organizations, such as the WebMD asthma message boards, support groups in your community, and by staying in touch with others who have asthma. Talking to others can help east some of the stress you might feel.
Two Tips For Stress Reduction
It Enhances The Immune Response
Response from John Bottrell, RRT:
This is the age-old question, as asthma was — for many years — considered a psychological/nervous disorder — it was caused by anxiety and stress. This was because asthmatics were observed to be nervous or anxious. This theory was extensively studied and modified by the 1950s, and by the 1980s was changed to: “While anxiety cannot cause asthma, it can act as an asthma trigger.” Modern science has pretty much confirmed the link between asthma and anxiety. However, it also appears that anxiety neither causes new-onset asthma nor triggers asthma. What it does do is enhance the immune response responsible for asthma.
Anxiety causes stress. You are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed, and your body releases cortisol and epinephrine. The combination of these initially reduces airway inflammation and open airways. However, when the stressful situation continues long term — you lost your job, someone you loved passed away, you live in abject poverty — your body responds by decreasing cortisol receptors. This is fine for non-asthmatics, and might even be good. However, in asthmatics, it makes it so that they are more likely to have an asthma attack when exposed to their asthma triggers. It also makes it so their airways are less responsive to the effects of corticosteroids, making their asthma increasingly difficult to control.
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What Happens If An Asthma Attack Is Not Treated
Without immediate asthma medication and asthma treatment, an asthma attack may become more severe. Your breathing may become more labored, and wheezing may get louder. If you use a peak flow meter during an asthma attack, your reading will probably be less than your personal best
Without treatment, your lungs will continue to tighten during the asthma attack and you may be unable to use the peak flow meter at all. Gradually, your lungs may tighten so much during the asthma attack that there isnt enough air movement to produce wheezing. This is called silent chest and it is a dangerous sign.
If you do not receive adequate treatment for an asthma attack, you may eventually be unable to speak and can develop a bluish coloring around your lips. This change of color is the result of oxygen deprivation in your blood. Without immediate aggressive treatment in an emergency room or intensive care unit, you may lose consciousness and eventually die.
About Dr Cicily Stanton
Dr. Cicily Stanton is a Family Medicine Physician at Florida Medical Clinic. As an asthmatic herself, Dr. Stanton is uniquely aware of the challenges this condition can bring. She uses her experience to help her patients find long-term relief.
From asthma control to chronic disease management, womens health, and more, Dr. Stantons goal is to help every patient live their healthiest and happiest life.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.
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What If Its An Asthma Attack
Remember, anxiety and asthma attacks can feed off of each other. Even if your asthma attack begins with allergies or exercise, it can turn into a panic attack also. No matter what type of asthma you have, it is extremely important to develop an asthma attack action plan.
An asthma attack action plan simply outlines your course of action in the event of an asthma attack or flare-up. It lists breathing exercises, medication, when to take your inhaler, when to call your doctor, etc.
Additionally, monitoring your lung health with testing and data tracking helps you create a more accurate action plan. Talk to your doctor about at-home lung testing, as well as any new symptoms or triggers that may display themselves. Likewise, if you suspect you suffer from chronic anxiety or panic attacks, ask your doctor how to best control them with your asthma in mind.
What is Aluna?
Aluna is an innovative, scientifically-accurate, and portable spirometer cleared by the FDA.
This device and management program is designed to help adults and children, 5 years and up, monitor their lung function and take control of their respiratory health.
Aluna automatically tracks your FEV1% over time. You can also monitor your symptoms, medication, exercise, and environmental factors.
With the Aluna app, you can easily
Aluna is seeking to shed light on asthma and other lung diseases by providing accurate and reliable data for healthcare providers and patients.
How Do I Know If Stress Is Triggering My Asthma Symptoms
The first step is knowing that youre under stress sometimes we dont recognise the signs. Stress can make you feel more irritable, tired, more worried than usual. You might feel teary, restless or find it hard to make decisions.
The second is understanding that stress levels can make your asthma worse sometimes we dont make the connection between stressful events and our asthma symptoms.
To see if stress might be triggering your asthma symptoms try keeping a diary write down when and why youre stressed alongside any asthma symptoms.
You might start noticing patterns. For example, perhaps you got asthma symptoms more when you were moving to a new house, or your asthma seemed worse when you had exams coming up.
A written asthma action plan helps you keep an eye on symptoms getting worse and reminds you what to do if you notice any.
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Reduce The Impact Of Anxiety And Stress On Your Asthma
Whether you have to juggle family and work or youve recently received bad news, dealing with the challenges of everyday life can take its toll. But if youre living with asthma, the stress and anxiety this causes can be a trigger for your symptoms.13 Here, we talk about how anxiety and stress might affect your asthma and what you can do about it.
While stress and anxiety differ, they often come hand in hand. These feelings are a normal reaction to lifes pressures and they arent always a bad thing. In small doses they can drive us to face a challenge and do well. Just think of those butterflies in your tummy that motivate you to prepare well before a job interview or study hard for an important exam.
What Is The Impact
As shown below, anxiety and depression impact people with asthma and the community in many ways.
Alongside poor asthma control, asthma and depression make a large contribution to impairments in quality of life amongst people with asthma . Anxiety and depression are associated with impaired functional outcomes and increased health care utilisation in adolescents and adults with asthma . Health care costs are much higher for people with comorbid asthma and mental health problems and there may be broader economic costs due to reduced productivity at work and school and premature mortality .
People with anxiety and depression are more likely to have risk factors associated with poorer asthma outcomes. These include smoking, poor self-management, reduced treatment adherence or overuse of medication, low physical activity, fear in response to asthma symptoms, higher body mass index, lack of social support, and negative thoughts and emotions, such as hopelessness or reduced self-efficacy . Anxiety and depression may directly impact on lung function, which may increase vulnerability to exacerbation . This may happen through panic symptoms such as hyperventilation or negative emotions such as sadness .
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How Does Stress Affect Asthma
depicts our working model of stress and asthma. It highlights the importance of both social and physical exposures in the exacerbation of symptoms. The basic premise of the model is that psychological stress operates by altering the magnitude of the airway inflammatory response that irritants, allergens, and infections bring about in persons with asthma. It is important to note that the model suggests that stress on its own is NOT capable of modifying immune functions in a way that leads to asthmatic symptoms. Rather, stress is viewed as a process that accentuates the airway inflammatory response to environmental triggers and, in doing so, increases the frequency, duration, and severity of patients symptoms.
Model depicting the interaction of psychological stress with environmental triggers in influencing asthma exacerbations. The basic premise of the model is that stress operates by altering the magnitude of the airway inflammatory response that irritants, allergens, and infections bring about in persons with asthma. The figure provides an overview of the relevant biological pathways to airway inflammation and bronchoconstriction, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axis, and the sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system.
How To Manage Stress With Asthma
Stress is part of daily life — with or without asthma. That’s why it’s important to find effective ways to manage stress if you do have the disorder. Learning to relax before you feel stressed can help you prevent shortness of breath and avoid an asthma attack.
Change Your Thoughts. Learn to change thought patterns that produce stress. What you think, how you think, what you expect, and what you tell yourself often determine how you feel and how well you manage rising stress levels.
Reduce Your Stressors. Identify the major stressors in your life such as money problems, relationship problems, grief, too many deadlines, and lack of support. If you can’t resolve these stressors alone, get professional help.
Avoid Stressful Situations. Try to avoid situations that trigger stress for you. Practice effective time-management skills, such as delegating when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and taking time out for yourself.
Get Plenty of Sleep. With asthma or any chronic illness, you need plenty of sleep. If you are not sleeping well or suffer with nighttime asthma, you will have less energy and fewer resources for coping with stress. Developing good sleep habits is very important. Here are seven sleep tips:
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Can Panic Attacks Lead To Asthma
Whether or not a panic attack triggers your asthma primarily depends on what type of asthma you suffer from. If you mostly experience asthma symptoms during allergy season, you are more likely to react to pollen than to anxiety. Likewise, exercise-induced asthma tends to flare up during periods of rigorous physical exertion.
That said, many people suffer from anxiety-induced asthma, which occurs when you have difficulty catching your breath due to overwhelming panic. The inability to draw in oxygen causes your airways to constrict and makes it even more difficult to take a breath. Likewise, the more difficult it is to take a breath, the harder you panic. This unfortunate cycle is extremely frightening if you havent taken steps to prepare for it. Fortunately, if you are prone to panic attacks, you can be on guard against panic-induced asthma attacks.
When To See A Gp
See a GP if you think you or your child may have asthma.
Several conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and correct treatment.
The GP will usually be able to diagnose asthma by asking about symptoms and carrying out some simple tests.
Find out more about how asthma is diagnosed.
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How Can You Tell A Difference Between Anxiety And Asthma
Since both anxiety and asthma affect breathing patterns, it is difficult to determine whether or not medical attention is required.
Well-meaning people will often tell you to just breathe in response to either kind of attack. Ironically, the primary difference between anxiety and asthma lies in these two words. Since asthma is a lung condition, people with asthma cant just breathe. Their lungs effectively shut down, and they cannot draw in air. Asthma medication or an inhaler is often needed for recovery.
On the other hand, when a person has difficulty breathing due to an anxiety attack, they can just breathe, even if its erratic. It may take work, practice, and concentration, but their lungs havent shut down. The body is simply reacting to stress. It is a good idea to practice calm breathing exercises to help prepare for an anxiety attack.
Can Anxiety Cause Asthma Symptoms
Ive noticed that as my anxiety goes up, so does my asthma and its symptoms. Is there a connection between anxiety and asthma symptoms?
Currently, the cause of asthma is unknown. Many sources suggest there is a combination of factors that cause asthma, such as environmental and genetic.
There are, however, many aggravators and triggers of asthma symptoms and attacks, including stress, such as the stress caused by anxious behavior.
While anxiety isnt known to cause asthma, the stress caused by anxiety can aggravate asthma symptoms as well as trigger an asthma attack.
Asthma is caused by a narrowing and swelling of the airways, which can also cause a production of mucus that makes it difficult to breathe. Common symptoms of asthma include difficulty breathing, as well as couching and wheezing.
Some medical sources have linked the swelling of airways to inflammation, which can be triggered by an overly sensitive and reactive immune system.
Because stress can suppress the bodys immune system, stress can be play a role in the degree and prevalence of asthma and its symptoms.
Consequently, reducing stress can remove a common aggravator and trigger of asthma.
We explain the link between anxiety and asthma in more detail in our Recovery Support area.
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Living With Anxiety And Asthma
I’ve reviewed how anxiety and asthma are connected. The way asthma disrupts everyday life can be frustrating, and oftentimes, you may think you can’t control it. But this isn’t the case. In my next installment, I will teach you some valuable tips and tricks on how to manage your asthma and lower your anxiety.
Other articles in this series include:
Need Help Managing Your Asthma Talk With A Specialist
Asthma attacks can be scary, but with the right treatment plan, its possible to prevent future attacks and keep your symptoms under control. For many people, a family doctor like Dr. Stanton is their biggest resource in managing asthma and preventing attacks. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Stanton today at our office in North Tampa. Virtual appointments are also available.
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Stress Test And Cortisol Collection At Age 16 Years
At age 16 years, 715 adolescents performed a stress test, based on the Trier Social Stress Task . The stress test consisted of two parts. In the first part, the adolescents were instructed to prepare a 6-min speech about themselves and their lives and deliver this speech in front of a video camera. The speech was followed by a 3-min interlude in which the adolescents were not allowed to speak. In the second part, adolescents were asked to perform a 6-min mental arithmetic task. The adolescents were instructed to repeatedly subtract the number 17 from a larger sum, starting with 13 287. The mental arithmetic task was followed by a 3-min period of silence, after which the adolescents were debriefed about the experiment. Adolescents with a high risk of mental health problems were over-represented in this population .
Cortisol was assessed from saliva collected prior to the stress test , directly after , and 20 minutes and 40 minutes after the stress test . Non-responders did not differ from responders in terms of sex non-responders were slightly older .
Anxiety Caused By Anxiety
Anxiety is also self-sustaining. Earlier we mentioned panic attacks, and how they can often be caused by periods of stress that become overwhelming. But once youve had your first panic attack, you may get them again and again because of a fear of panic attacks, or because your body becomes more attuned to how it feels, which ultimately triggers them in the future.
We see this in other ways too:
- If you found yourself nervous about a plane ride, you might be fearful on future plane rides.
- If you find yourself worried about a negative thought, you may have that thought more often.
- If you experienced severe anxiety symptoms, you may be anxious about experiencing them again.
Essentially, anxiety and a fear of anxiety symptoms can create more anxiety in the future. They become their own self-sustaining cycle. So even justifiable anxiety can lead to unprompted anxiety.
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