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Air Hunger (I Can't Catch My Breath!)


Air Hunger and Anxiety: Understanding the Breathless Sensation

Air hunger, also known as dyspnea, is a distressing sensation where one feels unable to breathe deeply enough to satisfy their need for air. This sensation is often associated with anxiety and panic attacks, creating a challenging cycle that can be hard to break.


The Sensation of Air Hunger

People experiencing air hunger often describe it as feeling suffocated or starved for air. They might take rapid, shallow breaths or attempt to yawn deeply in a desperate attempt to satisfy their need for more oxygen. Despite these efforts, the sensation persists, leading to increased distress.


Why Air Hunger Occurs in Anxiety

Anxiety can induce physiological changes like increased heart rate and rapid breathing. These changes, while part of the body’s natural response to perceived threats, can disrupt normal breathing patterns, leading to the sensation of air hunger.


1. Fight or Flight Response: In anxious states, the body's fight or flight response is activated, preparing for a perceived threat. This response often includes rapid, shallow breathing.

2. Hyperventilation: Anxiety can cause hyperventilation, where breathing becomes too fast, reducing carbon dioxide levels in the blood. This imbalance can lead to symptoms like dizziness, tingling in the extremities, and air hunger.

3. Psychological Factors: Anxiety and panic can heighten one's awareness of their breathing, leading to a disruptive breathing pattern and creating a sensation of not getting enough air.


Managing Air Hunger (Josh's Experience)

Often, people with anxiety can experience air hunger, and it's something that I am no stranger to. What you've got to realize is that when you can't get a deep enough breath, it's because you've been over-breathing. The body has too much oxygen on board, so it's just regulating our ability to take in oxygen.


Unfortunately, when we're in a panicking state or hyperfixating on it obsessively, we can try to force this sensation, which can create new symptoms of panic. Just know and trust your body that it's getting enough oxygen. The way out isn't to over-breathe or to even hyperfixate on breathing.


The body will look after and regulate itself. So what I recommend doing is taking your attention away from the body. Body-centric concentration doesn't really help here, and utilizing things like distraction or mindfulness of things around you and in your environment.


Obviously, if you struggle with asthma or any breathing-related issues, make sure that this is dealt with first, and always consult your doctor if you do have concerns about your breathing.


While air hunger can be a frightening experience, understanding its connection with anxiety is the first step in managing it. With the right techniques and support, one can effectively reduce the frequency and intensity of air hunger episodes, leading to a more comfortable and less anxious daily life.

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