Asthma Linked to Anxiety Disorders

– Posted in: Anxiety

A new study has found a significant link between asthma and  Anxiety Disorders, particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Other research has shown a positive link between Anxiety Disorders and asthma, but this is the first to focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and to take into account genetic, demographic, and environmental factors. The research was published in the second issue for November 2007 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, from the American Thoracic Society.

Although the link was proven, the causes of the relationship between asthma and the Anxiety Disorders is not known. There are common risk factors with both asthma and the Anxiety Disorders, but how they operate is unknown, nor is whether the asthma comes first or the Anxiety Disorder comes first. 

This post discusses this new research and its implications under the following headings:

  • How was the research conducted?
  • What the research discovered
  • What are the Anxiety Disorders most closely associated with asthma?
  • What are the reasons behind the link between asthma and Anxiety Disorders?
  • Summary: More questions than answers

How was the research conducted?

The VET registry: one of largest twin samples

The research used the Vietnam Era Twin Registry (VET registry) to examine the association between PTSD symptoms and asthma.{{1}} The VET registry is one of the largest national samples of twins in the United States.{{2}}

The study included 3,065 male twin pairs, who had lived together in childhood, and who had both served on active military duty during the Vietnam War.{{3}} The study included both identical twins, who share all the same genetic material, and fraternal twins, who share only half of the same genetic material.{{4}} 

To filter out causes of asthma other than PTSD, the study group was adjusted for cigarette smoking and body mass index, which are both associated with anxiety disorders and asthma.{{5}} 

What the research discovered

Those with PTSD 2.3 as likely to have asthma

The study found that among all twins, those who suffered from the most PTSD symptoms were 2.3 times as likely to have asthma compared with those who suffered from the least PTSD symptoms.{{6}} The overall prevalence of asthma was 6 percent.{{7}} The researchers found the association between asthma and PTSD existed even after they took into account factors such as cigarette smoking, obesity and socioeconomic status, all of which are associated with both Anxiety Disorders and asthma.{{8}}

The research had three main results:{{9}}

  • The data suggest a strong and significant association between asthma and PTSD symptoms among males in the community. 
  • The results indicate that the association between PTSD symptoms and asthma is not explained by its coexistence with depression, cigarette smoking, or demographic factors. 
  • The results of the within-pair analysis show that the link between PTSD symptoms and asthma is not explained by common familial or genetic influences.

The study also found evidence of a significant link between asthma and depression. This is consistent with growing evidence that there is a relationship between asthma and depression among adults.{{10}}

What are the Anxiety Disorders most closely associated with asthma?

Anxiety Disorders 6 times more prevalent with asthma

Studies have shown that psychiatric disorders, especially Anxiety Disorders and depression, are about six times more prevalent in patients with asthma compared with the general population.{{11}} 

Lead researcher in this study, Renee D. Goodwin, Ph.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, says,{{12}}

[A]nxiety disorders are the mental disorders most strongly and consistently associated with asthma … More specifically, evidence to date suggests that panic disorder and post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are the anxiety disorders most strongly associated with asthma in clinical samples. …  Studies have also shown a strong link between asthma and panic disorder among adults in the community

What are the reasons behind the link between asthma and Anxiety Disorders?

Little is known about the link

At this point, little is known about the reasons for the relationship between Anxiety Disorders and asthma, though there are some good clues that are being researched.{{13}} Renee Goodwin says,{{14}}

Although findings are relatively consistent in showing a link between anxiety disorders and asthma, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. 

There is a sort of chicken-egg problem with asthma and Anxiety Disorders. Asthma could increase the risk of Anxiety Disorders, or Anxiety Disorders might cause asthma, or there could be common risk factors for both asthma and Anxiety Disorders.{{15}} Asthma and Anxiety Disorders do share a number of common social and environmental risk factors, which may play a role in their relationship. {{16}} Goodwin states:{{17}}

One possibility is that asthma causes mental disorders; a second possibility is that mental disorders cause asthma. Few studies have examined the temporal relationship [which comes first] between mental disorders and asthma. One study demonstrated that asthma leads to an increased prevalence of panic attacks and suicidal behavior and completion, whereas another study found that panic attacks lead to increased asthma activity. 

Several studies have documented higher rates of respiratory disease in relatives of people with panic disorder and depression, suggesting a potential family or genetic link.{{ 18}} One of the risk factors for asthma is genetic; if a mother or father has asthma, there is a strong chance that their child will have it, too. However, this study found that the association between asthma and PTSD does not appear to be primarily due to common family genetics.{{19}} Goodwin states:{{20}}

If there had been a strong genetic component to the link between asthma and PTSD, the results between these two types of twins would have been different, but we didn’t find substantial differences between the two. 

One environmental factor that might contribute to both mental disorders and asthma is exposure to trauma. Specifically, several studies show a link between exposure to trauma earlier in life and increased risk of asthma or respiratory disease in adulthood.{{21}} Traumatic exposure is a potential risk factor for asthma and is definitely associated with symptoms of PTSD.{{22}} Goodwin says,{{23}}

It is conceivable that traumatic stress, which has been associated with compromised immune functioning, leads to increased vulnerability to immune-system–related diseases, including asthma.  … Alternatively, it may be that having asthma places adults at increased risk for PTSD as it increases the likelihood that they will be exposed to a traumatic situation because they have a life-threatening chronic medical condition.

Summary: More questions than answers

Little research has been done on link causes

Although this research proves a link between asthma and PTSD, it raises more questions than it answers. As with so much related to the Anxiety Disorders, there has been little research on the causes, precedence, and the common risk factors between it and asthma. A quick review of the literature shows that more research is ongoing, so maybe these questions will be answered in the near future. 

In summary, here is what the study found:

  • There is a strong link between asthma and Anxiety Disorders, especially PTSD and Panic Disorder.
  • It is not known what causes the association of asthma and the Anxiety Disorders.
  • It is not known whether the asthma occurs first, or the Anxiety Disorders.
  • There are several risk factors that asthma and the Anxiety Disorders have in common.
  • There is a genetic risk factor for asthma, but no genetic link was found for asthma with PTSD.
  • Trauma might be a common risk factor between asthma and PTSD.

The research findings suggest that a person with asthma who experiences a traumatic event might be more vulnerable to developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition, they may be having panic attacks associated with the asthma. In either case, the help of a mental health professional will help them to control the symptoms of the Anxiety Disorders.  

What do you think?

I had severe asthma as a child, but “grew out of it” in my early 20’s. Maybe when I moved from home, I was away from the things that aggravated it. After researching this article, I’m curious if some of those same aggravating factors sowed the seeds of the mental conditions I already was beginning to develop. 

  • Do you or someone you know have asthma? Is there a history of PTSD or panic attacks as well?
  • What do you think might be some common risk factors between asthma and Anxiety Disorders?
  • Do you thinks that there are other physical conditions that share risk factors with Anxiety Disorders?

As always, your comments are welcome!

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Related posts:


[[1]]Goodwin, Renee D.; Fischer, Mary E.; Goldberg, Jack. (2007, November). A Twin Study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Asthma. Retrieved December 2, 2008 from American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine: ¶10[[1]]

[[2]]Goodwin. ¶11[[2]]

[[3]]Nauert, Rick. (2007, November 15). Link Between Asthma and PTSD. Retrieved July 1, 2008 from PsychCentral: ¶2[[3]]

[[4]]Nauert. ¶4[[4]]

[[5]]Goodwin. Discussion ¶2[[5]]

[[6]]Nauert. ¶2[[6]]

[[7]]Goodwin. Results ¶1[[7]]

[[8]]Nauert. ¶8[[8]]

[[9]]Goodwin. Discussion ¶1[[9]]

[[10]]Goodwin. Discussion ¶2[[10]]

[[11]]Miller, Karl E. (2007, May 15). Depressive and anxiety disorders can affect asthma control. Retrieved December 3, 2008 from American Family Physician: ¶1[[11]]

[[12]]Goodwin. ¶7[[12]]

[[13]]Nauert. ¶6[[13]]

[[14]]Goodwin. ¶8[[14]]

[[15]]Nauert. ¶7[[15]]

[[16]]Goodwin. Discussion ¶2[[16]]

[[17]]Goodwin. ¶8[[17]]

[[18]]Goodwin. ¶9[[18]]

[[19]]Nauert. ¶7[[19]]

[[20]]Nauert. ¶5[[20]]

[[21]Goodwin. ¶9[[21]]

[[22]]Goodwin. Discussion ¶3[[22]]

[[23]]Goodwin. Discussion ¶4[[23]]

43 comments… add one
Linda Hampton RN, MSN December 4, 2008, 8:04 pm

I find this link amazing. Anxiety has such long lasting effects to both the mind and body. It’s sad to think that most people don’t realize how dangerous it really is

Linda Hampton RN, MSN’s last blog post..Stress Management –Your Holidays Can Be More Enjoyable Without Spending One Extra Dime!

Mike December 4, 2008, 8:17 pm

Hi, Linda! Thanks for commenting!

Yes, asthma really is dangerous, and severe asthma is truly life-threatening. I didn’t include some of the research I did about the more serious forms of asthma, which only underlines the relationship between Anxiety Disorder — Panic Disorder in particular — and asthma.

I was restricted in what I could say due to the article’s focus on Goodwin’s research with PTSD. I wish she had included a section on the treatment of Anxiety Disorders to help asthmatics. I did put a sentence or two in the Summary about it, because it’s so important.

Kim Woodbridge December 8, 2008, 12:23 pm

Another great article Mike! Surprisingly, I don’t know anyone with asthma. Or if they have it I just don’t know about it. I would think that if one comes before the other it would be asthma. The most intriguing part of the article was the association between asthma and anxiety and an early traumatic event.

Kim Woodbridge’s last blog post..(Anti) Social-Lists 12/7/08

Mike December 8, 2008, 4:25 pm

Thanks for the compliments, Kim.

I tend to agree with you that you have asthma first, then that generates Anxiety Disorders. However, panic attacks can mimic an asthma attack so much that emergency room doctors sometimes have a hard time telling them apart.

I find the link between a traumatic event, asthma and Anxiety Disorders intriguing, as well. There is more research being done in this area, and I will be keeping an eye out for the results.

Rachel December 9, 2008, 1:08 pm

Hi Mike,

A Twitter acquaintance shared this post with me (I just wrote about my panic disorder in my own blog post last night), and I must say this is truly interesting.

After reading this, I thought about the onset of my asthma and its relationship, if any, to my anxiety disorder. Turns out, the onset of my asthma did coincide with traumatic childhood experiences in my life. (Of course, my mother was an anxious asthmatic, too, so there’s a good chance that I inherited both “disorders” from her.)

As for the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum, while most asthmatics become anxious during an asthma attack (the inability to breathe is terrifying even for non-anxious people!), I’m not sold on the idea that asthma is the underlying cause of anxiety. It certainly can add fuel to the fire and aggravate pre-existing symptoms, that’s for sure (“Help! I can’t breathe!”), but I think anxiety is probably more rooted in genetics and/or environmental factors.

Still, it’ll be interesting to find out what the research shows!

Thanks for an informative post!

Mike December 10, 2008, 3:38 am

Hi, Rachel! Thank you for commenting, and thanks for the compliments!

The state of the research on this topic is frustrating. There are a lot of hunches and maybe’s, but no definitive answers. However, it’s heartening that research is ongoing and that there will be real answers someday.

My personal opinion is that asthma does not cause a diagnosable Anxiety Disorder, but that it can create the situations that generate Anxiety Disorders that one is already vulnerable to. It is well documented that Anxiety Disorders are a product of environment, genetics and physical characteristics. Some people can have all the factors that would make them susceptible to the Disorder, but never have a precipitating cause, like asthma, to cause it to come to the fore.

I had asthma as a child and well remember the panic of not being able to breathe. But I don’t think that it has any relationship to my current diagnosed Anxiety Disorders — it’s just a coincidence.

Incidentally, I followed you on Twitter. You have a great website. Did you build it yourself?

CJ December 18, 2008, 10:02 pm

I’ve been searching online and trying to figure out why I have short breaths or not full breaths. I know I”m still breathing but I can’t inhale all the way sometimes. Other times I breath just fine and don’t notice it. I’m 32 and have had a panic disorder since 17. I’ve always felt like I can’t breath when I have the attacks. But for the past 3 years I feel like I’m not breathing good most of the time even when I”m not having panic attacks. But I also have anxiety at those times when I don’t feel like I’m breathing well. Sometimes it will make me feel naseous too. Am I experiencing something dangerous? or is it all in my head?

Mike December 20, 2008, 12:04 am

Hi, CJ! Thanks for dropping by.

If you haven’t already done so, you need to have yourself checked by a doctor for your breathing problem. It probably isn’t dangerous, but you won’t know until you have it confirmed for you.

The anxiety you feel when you’re short of breath likely is caused by your not being able to breathe well. Anxiety can even cause nausea. That’s entirely normal, and shouldn’t give you any cause for alarm. If the anxiety continues after you’re breathing normally, then I recommend that you seek out a mental health care professional, who will help you learn to manage it.

Panic attacks and shortness of breath are not dangerous per se, but are nothing to laugh at, either. They certainly feel dangerous! Again, I urge you to seek some therapy to help you manage the panic attacks and your reaction to the shortness of breaths. And do get yourself checked to make sure that the shortness of breath is not a medical condition.

Please let me hear how you are doing. You can either leave a comment here, or better, use the contact form at the top of the page to send me an email.

Stacie January 5, 2009, 3:54 am

I do not have asthma, but my three boys do. I have not seen them in any panic situations (and hope not to!), but my mother-in-law developed astham later in life (her 50s), and I saw it bring her to tears. When you can’t breath, things get scary, and they get scary FAST! This is a woman who was raised not to show unbecoming emotions, so to see her cry shocked even me.

I am a birth doula and I am with women during labor and birth. Epidurals, those miracle take-the-pain-away fixes of today, can sometimes cause a similar panic. An epidural works by numbing a person from about below-the-breast down. Once in a while it either starts too high, or instead of the numbness going down it goes up. A person suddenly feels they cannot breath, and panic ensues. The difference is, the body will continue to breath on its own so it is not like having an asthma attack.

But it makes sense that an asthma attack is made worse by the anxiety that comes with the, “I can’t breath!” feeling of fear.

jim January 16, 2009, 1:51 pm

I have both anxiety and asthma. I need help with both. I hope i can help myself with this. This is great information.

John February 5, 2009, 8:37 pm

The scariest feeling I ever had just occurred a couple of hours ago. I just left work to catch my train. The air was cold and it triggered my asthma. I got frightened and started breathing heavier. I had to stop my walking to try and calm down and breathe easier. But fear took over and i felt nervous like i might die this time. My felt like I might faint but didn’t. I was trying to communicate to a fellow pedestrian in the street to help me. She contacted 911 for me. It felt like I lost consciousness and was battling inside to keep myself from dying. Meanwhile, I tried taking my inhalators to feel better but it was a battle that I thought was over. I convinced myself inside that i can get better. Eventually, I gained my consciousness ( I didn’t faint) and started coming out of it. EMS came and I went in the ambulance. There was nothing wrong with me according to ems. I had a very dry mouth. I went to a nearby food place to have water and take a seat. I was able to go home and relax for now but I’m still shaken from this. I think there is a definite link between this. When I was a little kid, I didn’t have asthma or allergies. However, i remember every once in a while, getting a choking sensation and not being able to breathe. I would run to my father and it would go away. when I became a teenager, I was diagnosed with asthma. the attacks i had as a little kid which were different went away. It was just asthma and asthma attacks. In my early adult years, the asthma attacks became less and less. Then one day when I was 30, I walked out of the street and walked into a heavy gust of wind and started panicking that I could not breathe. I started hyperventilating and passed out. the ems person told me I had a panic attack. I’ve never had it treated but realized to try and control it with my mind. Everyonce in a while, I would still have one. But none were ever like this. i’m scared. I am an average sized 45 year old male now, not heavy at all but the asthma has never went away and this time the panic took over the asthma.

Mea November 25, 2009, 2:32 pm

While all along we have known my son has PTSD and GAD since he was 4 and witnessed sever violence for a brief period of time, we never knew asthma was part of a panic attack.
He has been going through some serious counseling for the past couple months dealing with issues that are very real to him, he is 10. Recently he had what we thought was a viral infection, just this unproductive cough that made his chest and head hurt, after 3 trips to our primary care doctor, she put him on a dose of steriods because his bronchial system was swolen in inflamed. Well the attacks kept coming, especially after a hard karate work out. So I took him to the ER, they immediately gave him a breathing treatment, went through all the ER protocal, sent us home with an albuteral inhaler. He takes lemactal and risperadone at night, so he pretty much zonked out, but the next morning had the same cough, so we used the inhaler and it did not work, the earlies primary care apointment was 4 in the afternoon and it was 8 am, so again we headed to the ER, this time they sent us home with a nebulizer. I was still clueless how my child all of the sudden had asthma, of course since we have not had a hard freeze this winter everyone around was just saying alergies, well he never had alergies. So I was still cluess, till researching online a bit.
Your article while starteling, gave me a sence of releif because I can help predict when he needs a treatment instead of doing what the ER said and have him use the nebulizer 4 x a day. That seemed a little extreme. Well we have an appointment with our primary care to learn more and set an emergency appointment with his psychiatrist. Thanks for pointing us in the right direction.

Joy February 20, 2010, 10:45 pm

I have always had asthma and have lived with it and it’s symptoms. My problem occured 5 years ago when I had a pure out panic attack for no known reason. I have since had problems with anxiety that a panic attack may occur again. My question is there any links to the medications that we are taking that may cause the anxiety? If so how do we stop the cycle?

richard May 24, 2010, 8:18 am

This page and the comments are frustrating because the links between asthma and ptsd or stress/anxiety disorders seem obvious to me. The key is this : was the asthma poorly controled ? I have had asthma all my life and most of the time it was NOT well controlled. Now i believe i have developed an anxiety disorder or perhaps even full-blown ptsd as a result of repeated life-threatening asthma attacks. I have been to the ER more than 50 times and each time i was fighting for my life. When i was younger, i could shake off the psychological effects, but now im in a state where i avoid any physical activity or environment other than my home for fear it may trigger another attack. i just keep reliving my last few visits to the ER over and over in my mind: gulping in air til the muscles in my upper back burned, the spots dancing before my eyes as the dizziness sets in and the overwhelming fear of losing consciousness. I have never been in the military and i wasn’t at ground zero but i have nearly all the symptoms of ptsd.

Maria May 24, 2010, 9:31 am

Hi our son is a highly gifted individual (iq 136), who has been treated from 4 to 9 with therapy only for PTSD and anxiety disorder; then added in risperadal, eventually to add in ADHD medicine and recently added in anxiety medication. He is now 11. Still in therapy. He was pretty much a tv video game junkie till about 2 years ago. Now he is very active with his karate and strength training. When he cannot catch his breath, he falls into a full blown panic attack, or is it the other way around; panic attack then not being able to catch his breath and so forth.
He loves being active, so we treat the anxiety and the asthma. We recently got him a respitory trainer from ultra breathe, he uses it twice a day as directed. We are noticing after a couple weeks a slight difference.
Any other suggestions; I just want him to have a normal childhood, where he is not relying on all those medications?

Kelly June 6, 2010, 2:00 pm

I have had asthma since I was 5 years old and I have anxiety for years. I started taking effexor for the anxiety a few years back and gained about 40lbs over a year and had a very severe asthma attack. Never had a problem with weight until taking effexor. When I have breathing problems I am very calm and do not panic because. I am so use to it. But I can understand people who get asthma late in life panicking but not my case. I recently stopped taking effexor and hopefully lose weight and my asthma will improve. I was wondering if the asthma medication causes anxiety disorders?

Mack Gerbig September 15, 2010, 7:43 pm

I’m 28 years old and I didn’t have any signs of depersonaliztion until about 3 years ago and I was . I don’t take any meds but I have learned to control this disorder on my own. Remind yourself there are about 7 billion people here and not alone.

Paul Gordon October 17, 2010, 8:01 am

I served as an Army Combat Medical Corpsman in South VietNam from 1966 to 1968. My unit was attached to the 3rd MarDiv, and worked more closely with the 9th Marines. We went wherever they went, but the Marines always got all of the press and the Army got little to none for it’s support and presence there. I was part of a Field Artillery Unit at first but during my second tour I was assigned to a Task Force Group and sent into Khe Sanh at the time of the 1968 Tet Offensive. We had 30 pound rats that could open C-Ratio cans with their teeth, Centipedes 20 inches long and Mosquitoes that could show up on radar, along with a few not so friendly snakes and ugly bugs I don’t believe theyhave names for
and pretty well confined to mud filled trenches and bunkers. Add to that the 2000 rocket attack one night and 2 days and ground firefights that ensued for several days at the beginning of Tet, and you have a recipe for long-term Latent and Debilitating Issues.
It took the better part of 23 years for PTSD to raise it’s ugly head in my life and nobody took it seriosly. I thought I was having a heart attack, and until a young Doctor in Lancaster Community Hospital in California diagnosed me in the ER one evening, I had no idea either of what it was. I now have 100% Total and Permenent Disability for it as well as severe tinnitus. Since then I have developed Asthma amd both seem to work together when these attacks occur. Those brave young people serving multiple deployments in Afghanis-Nam and Iraq-Nam are being bombarded with Seroquel, and Effexor while still in-country there. Those poor young warriors have no idea what life will be like for them in 10 or 20 years, but someome had better remember them and help them when their time comes and scares the hell out of them not knowing what the residues of Combat Exposure and PTSD among other disorders they have festering within them. I just sincerely hope that our Government won’t turn their backs on them the way it did on most of us.

daniel March 7, 2011, 6:38 pm

I have had asthma since i was about a year old. It has been poorly managed. now i’m in university and i keep on having these panic attacks and anxiety epecially when i am speaking in public. i did not know what was wrong with me until i read a publication that led me to find this article. What is the way out?

Lynda July 6, 2011, 7:24 pm

I’m really sorry but I do not agree with this; this theory is based mostly on one persons reasearch – Goodwin. This does not constitute viable sound conclusion. As a Nurse Practitioner, mild asthmatic, and non panic attack sufferer I have to say ‘stop there a moment’ – if we start saying asthma =panic attack= asthma; ER staff are going to start treating all asthma sufferers as mental health patients – and this is not the case. Having studied many research works on a variety of subjects for BSc clinical medicine one can if one is so inclined make that research ‘fit’ ones argument.
It is a dangerous road to tread to start labeling ‘asthamtics’ as also having a coexisting mental health issue. Asthma has many forms and many triggors each as individual as the sufferer, adding a tag of panic attacks to all of them is irresponsible to say the least. Inexperienced health workers could totally jump to wrong diagnosis and utimately patients could suffer as a consequence.

Mary July 26, 2011, 5:27 pm

I have agree with Lynda here. As a Nurse Practitioner also, who does work in an ER setting, there clearly is a difference between asthma and anxiety induced asthma. I am not saying that the two variables are not related, asthma is a very hetergenous disease with no set progresssion or presentation. Just because two event/illnesses/conditions occur together dose not mean that one causes the other. Management of asthma is based on individual symptoms and personal response to medications, therapy and control of environmental triggers. Lump all these patients together is irresponsible and dangerous.

Jezza October 1, 2011, 5:54 am

All i know is that asthma can increase blood pressure, which can raise general stress levels, thus worsening stress/anxiety response to environmental factors. Asthma worsens emotional response to anxious thoughts and also worsens anxiety symptoms. It has a negative effect on your vision which can weaken your outlook

DanDan November 9, 2011, 3:03 am

I am a 35y old male. I have had asthma since I was maybe 6years old.
I have recurrent symptoms but never intense attacks. For one, I really think my asthma is in part a response to anxiety (which I don’t take any medication for).

The root of my anxiety is unknown.

~Dust will trigger asthma symptoms (I do know that allergies,dusts and cats will inevitably trigger symptoms)
~Physical work that I absolutely hate doing will trigger symptoms (Liking mowing the lawn, manual labors, mechanics etc…)
~ Stressful situations or period of the year with work will trigger symptoms.
~ My passion for hardcore trekking and intense mountain biking and even if I do it for a full day, it will never trigger symptoms.
~ I could be inflicted by symptoms for 2-3 days but as soon as I jump on my motorcycle, all my symptoms disappear.
~ Swimming for long period won’t trigger symptoms.

To me, asthma is often a response to uncomfortable situations and I will never have symptoms when i am happy and truly enjoying myself.

Although in some rare occasions, positive anxiety will trigger
symptoms. Like watching my son in his school play, waiting to get into my brand new car at the dealer, opening a gift etc…

My asthma symptoms are not violent enough to trigger anxiety but for me, it’s definitely the other way around. Whether it’s positive or negative anxiety, it will trigger slight symptoms…

I am 100% that in my case, anxiety is the culprit for my constant symptoms. I found this page while researching the link between my asthma and my anxiety.

Joan January 13, 2012, 6:33 pm

Great intriguing topic, I look forward to the conclusion of the report. I strongly believe that there is a link, my Mom was a chronic asthmatic for years, whilst she could manage her asthma condition very well, she sadly suffered from an enxiety disorder that deprived her of a good quality of life. She was in constant fear, of unreal things / circumstances that were so real to her. She refused to go for treatment or diagnosis as she believed in the reality of her fears. My 11 year old son was diagnosed with asthma almost two years ago, he also presents with panick attacks that present as asthma attacks. We can tell they are panick attacks because they get trigerred by a certain environment, which we can now clearly identify with but cannot keep him away from. I believe it could be genetic too. I am desprately in need of an answer to this.

lavinialuna March 10, 2012, 5:43 pm

Thanks for writing this. I recently noticed that what I had always felt was anxiety (feeling of dread, a “pit of my stomach feeling,” a conscious need to breathe, sighing, and I kept catching myself holding my breath) was helped with the use of an inhaler. I figured it all out because I have an inhaler for when I have colds etc. (as I have had wheezing in the past) and I was having a stretch of time I had been dealing with increased anxiety symptoms. I just so happened to get a cold at the same time, and therefore used my inhaler. To my surprise, those weird stomach feelings and even what I had perceived as dread improved with the use of the inhaler.
Perhaps what is happening is that the decrease in oxygen is causing a “panic” in our bodies and causing anxiety in our brains as a response, or the panic we feel from the lack of ease with breathing has caused us a panic in the past and we are automatically having panic feelings at the onset of the asthma as a sort of automatic response? Either way, I am relieved to finally have a little more understanding in how my body is working. Keep up the good work!

Richard May 10, 2012, 8:02 am

Hi there, my partner has been told she has brittle asthma. She has had it since she was 10 and she is 19 now. Over the past few years it has been getting increasingly worse she is now on Salbutamol (2 puffs morning and night and when needed), Seretide 250 (4 puffs morning and night), Uniphyllin, and Montelukast. We have been back and forth to the doctors and all the keep saying is that she is on step 5 of 5 and there isn’t much else they can do. She has a specialist she sees at the hospital and we are waiting for an appointment to see him. She does get very anxious about things and has recently lost her job. She has been tested for allergies on a number of things and the only allergies really are dust and rats. We regularly clean the house and wash our bed sheets at 60 and vaccum the bed to try and get rid of everything. But still nothing has worked. Doctors keep talking about “the trigger” but the keep looking for allergies. Could the anxiety be the trigger? She has had bad experiences in the past that could cause the anxiety but the doctors just keep upping her asthma medication. From what I’ve read it seems that it could. Thank you for any input.


lavinialuna May 11, 2012, 9:05 pm

Don’t forget to look for allergies in her food. I am really allergic to MSG and other chemicals. Since stopping eating most processed food I have improved in every way, but I too still am looking for triggers.
I am currently having a horrible bout with anxiety (for the past several months) with no asthma symptoms. Who knows how it is all linked, and why it sometimes seems to be related, and other times, not. Hope to soon have more answers.
Good luck!

Ringing in the Ears July 28, 2012, 8:31 pm

Wonderful web site. A lot of helpful information here. I am sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your effort!

kegnor October 8, 2012, 3:02 pm

Just did a a search on anxiety as I am suffering from allergic asthma, allergic to all indoor and outdoor allergies confirmed by testing and have problems with cold and exercise induced asthma, never had one problem in my entire life w anxiety issues
I am experiencing frequent asthma attacks and am working w an allergy doc to control these but have noticed my stress and anxiety is through the roof, appreciate all the great information on the posts

deal Dash November 10, 2012, 9:51 pm

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Willa December 19, 2012, 8:20 am

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Anthony August 22, 2015, 11:52 am

I was a severe asthmatic from around 18 months. Not well controlled until I hit adolescence and many symptoms receded. I think the reality and the fear of not being able to breath (I still recall 40-50 years later) lying in my bed unable to breath, suffering and alone) traumatized me.

So, the effects of the disease can traumatize which would then show up as a correlation.

There are few things as fundamental as a sense of being able to breath. It is a way of centering oneself in meditative practices. Perhaps not being able to feel comfortable breathing created fear, anxiety and existential trauma.


Petunia Evans May 10, 2016, 7:47 pm

I had no idea that asthma was linked to anxiety disorders. Reading about this research was really interesting though, and I think it explained a lot for me personally. I feel that I know myself a lot better now, thanks for this enlightening information!

richard westmoreland August 21, 2016, 1:45 pm

I’m curious if there has been any studies conducted indicating a link between PTSD and water-boarding, the torture technique where the victim must experience “simulated drowning”. The torturers make the victim feel like he is going to drown, but right before he dies they stop and interrogate him again. The process is repeated until the desired information is obtained, and no person has ever been able to withstand it for more than 8 minutes or so. Now, if that is stressful enough to cause PTSD after only 1 torture session, imagine being that close to suffocating to death for an even longer period of time. Say the asthma attack starts, your O2 level is around 88% when you call an ambulance. 30 minutes later you are at the hospital taking a nebulizer treatment but the muscles you breathe with are already so exhausted, the exersion of just moving air into and out of your lungs is enough to keep you in EXTREME oxygen debt and slathered in sweat. If the muscles become too fatigued to function before the medication finally starts to take effect, you die. If you don’t suffocate to death, for the next several days you are weak as a kitten. Your back muscles are in knots and its agony to even move. Now imagine this happens to you upwards of 40-50 times. You think there might be a link between asthma and PTSD? Well DUH.

Ramey Chisum November 3, 2017, 5:28 pm

I am confident that asthma and PTSD are one and the same. I also believe that Autism is a form of PTSD as the symptoms and behaviors of both correlate exactly. And since stress and anxiety triggers asthma attacks, why is not understood that stress and anxiety cause the asthma? Your trigger is your source as well. Thanks.

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