Hyperventilation means breathing too much, and far too quickly. It is often anxiety that triggers the condition, when you feel that you do not get air, and therefore begin to breathe more oxygen than the body really needs.
It easily becomes a vicious cycle of behavior, that hyperventilation is caused by panic, while it can also cause you to panic. The feeling of not being able to breathe makes you begin to breathe even faster to get air. Hyperventilation is in most cases a self-taught behavior that can be trained. It is also not dangerous, but may in a few cases be a symptom of an underlying disease. The healthcare information can help with tips on where to turn for help.
Why does hyperventilation begin?
It is often called over-breathing when someone is hyperventilating. When you experience great anxiety it can feel like you can’t breathe, and the natural reaction is that you start breathing quickly to get air. What happens is that you then get more oxygen than what is actually needed in the body. This causes the blood vessels to contract, giving less blood to the brain, for example. The hemoglobin also reduces the blood’s ability to transport oxygen, which means that the blood that comes to the brain has a lower carbon dioxide content than is normal. Thus, the brain receives less oxygen despite breathing more when hyperventilating.
Once you have started hyperventilating, it can be difficult to see for yourself that the trouble is due to breathing too much and quickly. Instead, you become aware of the other symptoms. Symptoms of hyperventilation may be shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, chest pain, dry mouth, palpitations, wheezing, bloating, muscle spasms in the hands and feet and numbness of the arms. All of this is caused by the decreased oxygen supply to the brain when hyperventilating, which is caused by getting more oxygen into it than what is supposed to be in the body.
A doctor can decide if there is anything else behind the symptoms, and if you are uncertain or worried, it is always good to consult either the medical information or a health care center. To make a diagnosis, you are asked about your symptoms and your medical history, and an assessment is then made based on that. In cases where there is suspicion of underlying illness or syndrome, the doctor does more tests to look for alternative causes.
Treatment to stop hyperventilating
Treating someone who is hyperventilating is all about teaching the affected person to control their breathing and their anxiety attacks. You are taught to pay attention to one’s breathing, and to draw long, deep breaths instead of the short and shallow ones that cause the condition. The goal is to increase the carbon dioxide content in the blood, which can be done in several ways. Sometimes it can help to breathe in a paper bag for a short while, as the carbon dioxide accumulates in the bag and becomes easier for the body to absorb. It is often recommended that you test breathing slowly and slowly on several occasions per day, even when not hyperventilating, to learn how to do when panic anxiety strikes. When you learn to breathe properly, the symptoms disappear quickly.