Psychosomatics of Respiratory Organs and Methods for Relieving Shortness of Breath, Suffocation, and Asthma

Remember, human life begins with a breath and a cry. The respiratory system is one of the most important systems in the body, facilitating our communication with the world. Respiratory organs help us speak, and if we’re hesitant to say something or feel suppressed, psychosomatic respiratory diseases like asthma, shortness of breath, suffocation, and a lump in the throat can develop.

General Information about the Disease

In psychosomatics, breathing symbolizes the ability to inhale life. Breathing is steady in a calm state but becomes erratic during mental tension.

Precursors, or psychosomatics of respiratory organs, include:

  • Negative emotions and feelings (breathing quickens);
  • Prolonged excitement (lung activity increases);
  • Psychotraumatic events (breathing stops or slows down);
  • Insecurity as a personality trait (frequent and interrupted breathing).

Breathing participates in all vital body processes: oxygen circulation, substance oxidation, carbon dioxide elimination, maintaining optimal body temperature, and water-salt balance. Any psychological changes in breathing lead to physiological disruptions, resulting in diseases. Respiratory diseases indicate problems in life areas, what’s missing for unity of body and soul, tormenting feelings, and character traits that hinder.

Main Symptoms of Shortness of Breath

Due to stress, a person tries to inhale as much air as possible, but muscle spasms prevent this, leading to shortness of breath where inhalations outnumber exhalations. Breathing becomes erratic and shallow.

Causes of Occurrence

Shortness of breath arises from stress, but the mechanism of breathing change varies. Let’s examine common causes of breathing problems on nervous grounds.


The body prepares to run or attack, tension arises, a lot of energy is released. In terms of breathing, this is manifested by accelerated inhalations, increased oxygen absorption, and increased carbon dioxide emission.

Breath Holding

When wanting to remain unnoticed or fearing death (often observed with accompanying heart pains), people resort to shallow breathing. They think they reduce the body’s load and relieve tension, but the effect is the opposite.

Overexertion of Respiratory Muscles

Other people prefer to relax by tensing the muscles of the abdomen, back, and chest. They believe this reduces the load on the heart and lungs, but again, the opposite effect occurs.

Dryness of the Mucous Membranes of the Upper Respiratory Tract

Stress disrupts blood circulation, constricts nasal capillaries. The spasm causes the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract to dry out, leading to cough and a feeling of nasal congestion.


For accurate determination of causes and characteristics of the disease, it is necessary to undergo comprehensive medical and psychological examinations. Blood tests, tomography, X-ray, etc., are needed. It’s essential to visit the hospital first, and then the psychotherapist.

Psychosomatics of Respiratory Diseases

Recall how in moments of horror, confusion, or surprise, breathing is caught. Or how breathing quickens in anger and slows down in fear. This is how the psychosomatics of respiratory diseases work, often caused by chronic stress and shocks.

Neurotic Manifestations

Psychosomatics of breathing is complemented by a feeling of burning and heaviness in the legs. Sometimes there is a feeling of suffocation, muscle spasms, cramps, and numbness in the hands, lips freezing, and fear of death by suffocation.

Bronchial Asthma

In asthma, the mucous membrane of the nasopharynx swells, and the nature of secretions changes. During an attack, a person suffers from suffocation and cannot inhale. Like other respiratory problems, asthma has a psychosomatic basis. Causes of an attack include anger, malice, fear, and offense.

The Connection of Respiratory Organs with a Person’s Psychological State

All emotions we experience reflect on our breathing. Some (anger, aggression) increase excitability and quicken breathing, leading to hyperventilation of the lungs. Others slow down breathing and literally suffocate us (fear, offense). In joy, we inhale very deeply, but in sorrow or offense, we breathe shallowly and often.

Not only emotions affect the nature of breathing, but also personality traits. For example, cowards breathe superficially and often. Open people breathe with a full chest, inhaling and exhaling deeply. People “smothered” by others’ care suffer from real asthma attacks. Those accustomed to suppressing emotions and living by others’ dictates fear even to sigh independently.

Psychogenic Dyspnea: Where It Comes From

Psychogenic dyspnea is a form of neurosis that arises in response to a real or imagined psychotrauma and usually has no somatic basis. The attack can occur at any time, in any body position. Often, this type of dyspnea is associated with hysterical, depressive, and panic disorders.

Psychogenic Asthma

People with asthma cannot breathe with a full chest. The world seems complicated, oppressive, hostile, and unstable. This mindset often forms in childhood due to a deficit or excess of parental love.

Common psychological profile of patients:

  • Suppressed aggression;
  • Constant emotional restraint;
  • Anxiety;
  • A sense of uncertainty;
  • Distrust and suspicion;
  • Sexual coldness;
  • Hypersensitivity to unpleasant smells;
  • Fear of judgment;
  • Dependence on others’ opinions.

Patients experience a contradictory combination of the need for love, attention, care, and the desire to express aggression, respond with anger to the world’s intolerance. Suppressed aggression becomes the main cause of the suffocating attack.

Causes of Psychosomatic Respiratory Diseases

The cause of diseases is chronic stress or a single severe shock. What exactly will be the traumatic event is hard to say, but several common psychological causes can be identified. Why It’s Hard to Breathe:

  • Conflicts in the family, at work, in relationships with friends;
  • Death of a significant person;
  • Accidents or other life-threatening situations;
  • Failures and difficulties in life;
  • Changes in usual conditions;
  • Divorce or relationship discord;
  • Phobias;
  • Neuroses;
  • Mental disorders.

Important! A psychosomatic illness can develop immediately after a traumatic event or years later. An illness that arises in adulthood may have roots in childhood trauma.

Why It’s Hard to Breathe: Psychosomatics

During breathing, not only the respiratory system but other systems are involved. Therefore, any breathing disturbances cause changes throughout the body. It adapts to the fluctuations, which externally appears as dyspnea. Several types of dyspnea can be identified:

  • Inspiratory: lack of air during inhalation;
  • Expiratory: lack of air during exhalation;
  • Mixed: lack of air during both inhalation and exhalation.

Each disorder requires medical and psychological correction.

Causes of Feeling a Lump in the Throat

Many people have experienced a sensation of a tight lump in the throat (recall the phrase ‘a lump rose in my throat’), usually occurring in situations of intense excitement. Other causes include:

  • Self-devaluation;
  • Fear of failure;
  • Unpleasant personal experience;
  • Offense;
  • Sadness;
  • Self-doubt;
  • Inability to express an opinion;
  • Internal resistance to social norms (someone’s demands).

Sometimes, along with the lump, other unpleasant sensations in the throat appear, or instead of a lump, nervous swallowing occurs. In rare cases, this is accompanied by trembling of the lips.

Psychological Causes of Lung Disease

Stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones that enhance energy accumulation in the body), which becomes the cause of breathing problems. Other factors that negatively affect breathing include:

  • Rigidity;
  • Forced posture;
  • Tension;
  • Stuffy and poorly ventilated rooms;
  • Dust;
  • Environmentally polluted areas;
  • Despondency;
  • Severe emotional shock.

Psychosomatic attacks pass a few minutes after calming down. To calm down faster, perform self-massage from the crown to the stomach.

Causes of Feeling Short of Breath

If the body adjusts to breathing disruptions, how does one even know it’s happening? The nervous system sends specific signals to the brain, indicating that something is wrong. And if the problems are purely psychological, it’s even simpler: a person subconsciously convinces themselves of the problem or anticipates a recurrence of a previous experience.

Characteristics of Respiratory Neurosis in Children

Respiratory neurosis in children arises from problems with parents, particularly relationships with the mother. Health deteriorates in unloved children who are psychologically rejected by their mothers. Or, conversely, those who are “smothered” by overprotective mothers. Authoritarianism and suppression also have a detrimental impact. Aggression, violence, reproaches, and orders cause the child to withdraw, constantly experience fear, and await something bad.

Another possible reason is parental quarrels and fights, divorce. First, children are scared by what they see and hear. Secondly, they often take what happens as their fault. In some cases, parents convince the child of this: ‘because of you, dad left us,’ ‘everything was good until you were born.’ An unhealthy psychological climate, suppressed emotions, and experiences take their toll – the child falls ill.

How It Is Detected

Neurosis can only be identified through self-observation or by consulting a specialist. One can suspect a problem independently if aware of the symptoms of respiratory neurosis.

Symptoms of Respiratory Neurosis

The main symptom is altered breathing. A person takes deep frequent breaths but still feels suffocated. Additionally, there is:

  • Tightness and heaviness in the chest;
  • Desire to gain control over the situation;
  • Lump in the throat, feeling of air being stuck;
  • Dry, persistent cough;
  • Rib pain;
  • Yawning;
  • Attempts to change body position or stretch arms to ease breathing;
  • Fear of losing life due to suffocation.

How Life Situations Affect Breathing

In most cases, breathing problems occur in certain situations. These are difficult or unpleasant life situations, but each person has their own perception of difficulties. It all depends on the individual’s psyche, personal experience, and stress resistance level. Some people worry before every exam or work report. Others feel anxious and worried even when leaving the house. In any case, the principle is the same: stress arises, which disrupts the hormonal balance, and consequently, the normal functioning of the respiratory organs.

Likelihood of Occurrence

Everyone is at risk, but particularly vulnerable are anxious personalities with chronic diseases, psychological traumas, fears, complexes, suppressed desires and emotions, self-rejection, and dissatisfaction with life, work, and family.

Treatment Methods for Psychosomatic Respiratory Disorders

Due to the delayed nature of the disease, it can be difficult to accurately identify the cause and select treatment. Especially challenging to do this independently. Therefore, it is recommended not to take risks (the older the trauma, the more difficult it is to treat) and immediately visit a psychologist. However, a visit to a pulmonologist is also advisable. Meanwhile, we have compiled some exercises and recommendations to help alleviate the condition.

How to Get Rid of the Feeling of Suffocation

For complete healing, it is necessary to get rid of the psychological trauma. Psychotherapy can help with this. The client needs to understand that the air will not actually run out. The attack is imaginary, and the fear that arises only exacerbates it. During therapy sessions, it is important to deal not only with old problems but also to focus on personal development. The asthmatic should become independent, learn to make decisions and take responsibility for them. It’s essential to learn to express all feelings and talk about concerns. In other words, the client must understand and accept their self, learn to express and defend their opinion.

For more effective treatment, the psychotherapist needs to know the client’s full life history, complete medical history, including hereditary risks. Also, it’s important to study the characteristics of family members, their medical history. The causes of asthma are always rooted in the patient’s family.

Recommendations for Respiratory Neurosis

In addition to psychotherapy sessions and lifestyle adjustments, respiratory gymnastics and a set of recommendations can help with respiratory neurosis:

  1. Quit smoking and alcohol, and other harmful habits.
  2. Ventilate the room.
  3. Engage in sports, try to walk more.
  4. Follow a sleep, work, and rest schedule.
  5. Avoid physical and intellectual overexertion. Breathing Gymnastics Technique Perform the following breathing technique daily:
  6. Sit or stand, keeping your back straight.
  7. Take a deep breath through your nose and round your stomach. Feel and imagine the air filling your belly.
  8. Visualize the air rising from the belly.
  9. Hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly.
  10. Feel the air leaving your belly, chest, and other body parts. Repeat the exercise several times. Practice gymnastics daily. Prevention To prevent problems, it’s important to increase stress resistance and remove negative factors from life. Other important prevention and attack management strategies include:
  11. Acknowledge that it’s hard for you to breathe. Recognize that it can happen to anyone. Now you understand the causes and mechanisms of the disease.
  12. Accept that it’s only a temporary malfunction. You are completely healthy, but you need to work on your consciousness.
  13. Breathe consciously, deeply, and rhythmically. Don’t forget to practice breathing gymnastics.
  14. Analyze the problem, develop thinking.

Attacks of suffocation and dyspnea can be either pathological or temporary. Their basis can be purely psychosomatic or medical combined with psychosomatic. At any signs of illness, it’s essential to visit a doctor. Do not neglect the situation – prevention never hurts.

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