The Asthma Anxiety Cycle
& How Hypnotherapy Can Help
I recently worked with a lady who suffers from both asthma and anxiety, which has prompted me to write about this topic today.
Anxiety and stress are common triggers of asthma and asthma itself often provokes anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. While anxiety itself doesn’t cause asthma for those who don’t already have the condition, there is a great deal of evidence that anxiety can make asthma symptoms worse.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a physiological response to a perceived threat known as the “fight/flight” response. In the past the kind of threats faced by our ancestors inevitably involved fighting an aggressor or running away. The stressors we face today are, of course, very different but our body responds in the same way – the heart pumps faster and harder, stress hormones flood through the system, breathing becomes shallow and rapid, blood is pumped away from the digestive and reproductive organs towards the muscles which become tense, basically getting ready to fight or run. Of course running away from our problems is not a very helpful solution – we need to find ways of coping.
Not all anxiety is inappropriate.
Sometimes a little anxiety can help us to perform at our optimum level, for example before an interview, public speaking event or performance. It’s when anxiety becomes out of control that it causes problems. A sudden extreme attack of anxiety, known as a panic attack, can be a frightening experience and shares some of the symptoms of an asthma attack, e.g. shortness of breath, tight chest and palpitations.
Can you tell the difference between an asthma attack and a panic attack?
If you suffer from asthma and anxiety it’s really important to be clear on the differences between the two; mistaking a panic attack for an asthma attack may cause you to overuse asthma medicine. Ironically overuse of inhalers can lead to palpitations and trembling hands exacerbating the anxiety-asthma cycle even more. So if you’re not clear on the differences it’s important to discuss this with your GP.
So how exactly does anxiety exacerbate asthma?
Anxiety and stress trigger the release of chemicals such as histamines which can cause constriction of airways.
Anxiety and stress changes breathing patterns and causes muscle constriction which can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
Anxiety and stress also weakens the immune system reducing the body’s ability to fight off colds and other respiratory infections which often trigger asthma attacks.
How can hypnotherapy help?
It’s important to find ways of managing stress and anxiety, particularly if you suffer from asthma. Learning how to relax before you feel stressed can help to control your symptoms. How you think and communicate with yourself often determines how you feel and how well you manage anxiety; learning how to change unhelpful negative thought patterns can help to reduce anxiety. Hypnotherapy has a proven track record in assisting clients to overcome anxiety and research indicates that it also improves asthma symptoms.
In private sessions I’ll teach you relaxation skills in combination with self-hypnosis. You’ll learn effective coping strategies, which will include imagery techniques, and you’ll also learn how to overcome negative thoughts and to naturally think more positively.