The Relationship Between Asthma & Anxiety

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDJune 29th, 2020
anxiety older woman

Just the thought of not being able to breathe is enough to trigger anyone’s anxiety. Now, imagine having limited control over your normal breathing patterns due to inflamed airways. With asthma, breathing difficulties are a part of everyday life—where any number of irritants can lead to shortness of breath and wheezing. The stress of an oncoming asthma attack can also be one of those irritants, causing anxiety which can then trigger an asthma exacerbation; so begins the hellish cycle of panic-induced troubled breathing.

This toxic relationship between asthma and anxiety may seem like an impossible situation to control. However, by taking the time to understand how one condition affects the other, you can become more aware of your triggers and begin to implement practices that can help deter exacerbations from occurring. In this article, we’ll provide you with the basics you need to educate yourself on both of these conditions—offering some solutions to help you better manage stress, asthma, and anxiety in the hope of warding off future exacerbations.

What is Asthma & What Causes an Attack?

Asthma is a condition that affects more than 22 million Americans, making it one of the most common chronic conditions—especially in children. Affecting the respiratory system, asthma causes the airways to inflame and swell, making breathing extremely difficult. While asthma is only a minor issue for some, it can be a major health concern for others—interfering with daily routines and potentially leading to life-threatening asthma exacerbations. An asthma attack can be triggered by a wide range of irritants, including:

  • Allergies (pets, pollen, dust, mold, etc.)
  • Genetics
  • Pollution and other environmental stressors
  • Stress
  • Exercise

Because these irritants vary so vastly from person to person, understanding your specific triggers can help you control your conditions and avoid exacerbations.


Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety isn’t just a feeling of worry or fear, it’s a weight that defines your reactions and perceptions of new events and situations. While almost everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their lives, it can affect some people more completely. Anxiety disorders, like panic attacks, can take over your body physically—manifesting into any number of symptoms. Some of the most popular symptoms associated with panic attacks and anxiety include:

  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Shortness of breath and dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes

Life With Asthma & Anxiety

An underlying health issue, such as asthma, can trigger anxiety and vice versa. In fact, many people with asthma will experience panic attacks during an episode, as an exacerbation feels suffocating. For some, even the thought of future asthma attacks is enough to cause anxiety. The common factor of both conditions? Stress. When you experience stress, the body releases hormones that launch adrenaline—picking up your heart rate and triggering shallow, gasping breaths. When those with asthma experience anxiety-induced stress, changes in normal breathing patterns become a concern and often lead to asthma attacks. The solution for managing both conditions comes down to learning how to manage your stress.

Ways to Manage Stress

Stress can manifest in virtually any situation, especially in the modern world where everything is fast-paced. Fortunately, there are ways you can manage this stress. Here’s how:

  • Practice low-impact exercises (walking, yoga, Tai Chi)
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Prioritize your responsibilities
  • Practice self-care
  • Communicate your feelings
  • Use breathing exercises
  • Meditate
  • Journal

Becoming more aware of situations that tend to trigger your anxiety can also help you prepare for potential stress. As long as you are taking the steps to better understand the kinds of events and emotions that trigger your asthma and anxiety, you are on your way to better controlling your reactions.

Get Medical Care Delivered for Asthma Exacerbations

While understanding your triggers is one of the best ways to prevent asthma and anxiety-related attacks, exacerbations can still happen. When they do, DispatchHealth is there to provide you with the urgent care that you need—no stress involved. We have quickly become one of the most trusted house call services for acute medical care, treating your condition in the comfort of your home. Requesting care is easy; simply use our mobile app, website, or call us directly. Within a few hours, one of our medical teams will arrive at your place of need equipped with a medical kit that has almost all of the tools and technologies found in a traditional ER setting.


Contact us today to learn more about the ways we are helping patients get the acute medical attention that they need within the comfort of their homes.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

Related Content

DispatchHealth’s APP Fellowship Program Receives Accreditation

DispatchHealth Earns Accreditation with Distinction for Advanced Practice Provider Transition to Practice Fellowship

In sickness & in health

Couple’s Embrace of Home-Centered Healing