The process of breathing symbolises the philosophy of a happy life itself; taking in from the surrounding, staying in the here and now, and eventually letting go off it to live on. It’s a smooth, rhythmic, simple, almost effortless process that happens on its own mostly. Although we can get some control over it, it tends to be involuntary for most part of our lives. However, there are many of us who wish to experience such a feeling more often. 

Role of Psychological Factors in Respiratory Problems

Respiratory problems are on the rise, mainly due to increasing pollution levels, erratic weather conditions, and poor air quality all over the world. No one seems immune to these drastic changes as people of all ages, belonging to different socio-economic backgrounds are suffering with various respiratory problems. Even though there are physical reasons for such problems, psychological and emotional factors like – personality traits, temperament, early childhood experiences, coping abilities, and stress management mechanisms can exacerbate or even trigger problems like asthma. 

Studies suggest a high comorbidity of anxiety disorders, panic attack and even depression inpatients suffering from respiratory problems that mostly go unnoticed and eventually affect the overall Quality of Life (QOL) of the individual. The role of psychological factors like misinterpretation of bodily symptoms can be explained through the “Breathlessness-Anxiety-Breathlessness Cycle”. Feeling or an anticipation of breathlessness can make you feel anxious, which in turn would affect the rate of breathing and can be misinterpreted as a sign of some serious respiratory problem which further makes you feel scared and can lead to a faulty coping of avoiding such situations in the future. Thus, the person gets caught in this vicious cycle that hampers his/her QOL significantly. 

What to do? 

  • In addition to the ongoing treatment with your physician, seek professional help from a Clinical Psychologist as they are trained to identify and assist you in dealing with such issues more efficiently. 
  • Through Psychotherapy, the underlying issues that are interfering with the overall healthy     functioning of the patient are identified and worked upon using various techniques and strategies. 
  • Faulty thought processes like - "Catastrophisation, Misinterpretation of bodily symptoms, Attributional biases, etc."  are identified, challenged and modified through psychotherapeutic techniques that help in better handling of the problems. 
  • Relaxation training and deep breathing exercises are taught to ensure you are breathing correctly and more efficiently. 
  • Share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. It is a must for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. 
  • Use positive imagery to help you feel calmer, relaxed and thus breathe freely.

‘Breath is the link between mind and body’  - Dan Brule