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Asthma, Stress, and Anxiety: A Risky Cycle

Stress-induced asthma attacks not 'all in your head', expert says.

Coping with Anxiety During an Asthma Attack

When people struggle to breathe during an attack, anxiety can escalate into panic. “It is a significant labor to take your next breath,” Chipps says.

Having rescue medication on hand at all times, understanding how long it takes for drugs to work, and knowing when to call for help will prevent confusion during an attack, Gergen says. Create an “action plan” with your doctor, he suggests. “The best stress reliever is having your medications and an action plan and knowing how to use it.”

An asthma attack typically subsides in 5 to 10 minutes. If it doesn’t ease in 15 minutes or gets worse, it’s time to get medical help.

Another big stressor for people with asthma: “the fear of their asthma preventing them from leading a normal life,” Gergen says. But that fear may be a strong signal; it’s probably time to see a doctor to adjust treatment and medications for better asthma control.

When the disease is managed well, people don’t have to live in fear, Gergen says. “They restrict their own activities -- not wanting to exercise or participate in certain things -- without the understanding that if they receive proper evaluation and adequate treatment, they can lead normal lives and participate in normal activities in the vast majority of cases,” he says. “The self-limiting isn’t really necessary.”

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Reviewed on June 22, 2009

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