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Afraid to push through breathlessness

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by veritybrown, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. veritybrown

    veritybrown New Member

    I'm certain I have TMS; panic attacks for years, wandering pains, and have now been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

    I have read Dr. Sarno's book and have the audios. I also have Steve Ozanich's excellent books which are really helpful in filling in information I know I need to hear.

    My question is how do I push through breathlessness and a tight chest? I am so frightened if I keep walking, bending, doing anything that makes me feel worse I will have a heart attack. Going upstairs is hell at the moment, I can only manage a few steps at a time before I feel overwhelmed and panicky. I feel I can't make progress until I overcome this fear. Also, I am totally freaked out that because my muscles are affected that my heart may be at some point.

    I have made good progress with my pain though this is really holding me up and stopping me from returning to normal activity.

    Any help would be appreciated. I am a newbie here and new at all this though am certain this approach will be my salvation!!

    Thank you.

    kld03c likes this.
  2. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Verity. Feeling breathless means you need to learn how to breathe properly. I've found the best technique is to breathe in through the nose to the count of 4, hold the breath for 7, exhale through the mouth to the count of 8. Repeat 4 times. Then I just breathe through the nose slowly. Try to relax during the exhale. There are some very good videos on Youtube on deep breathing. They may differ on the 4-7-8 counts, but are basically the same. Also look at relaxation videos on Youtube. Some are yoga exercises and others incorporate music and peaceful scenes.
    veritybrown likes this.
  3. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Shortness of breath is something you should check out with your doctor and rule out any physical causes before treating as TMS. Have you done this?
  4. veritybrown

    veritybrown New Member

    Thank you, Walt. I'll go and take a look.

    Much appreciated.

  5. veritybrown

    veritybrown New Member

    Yes, I have, thank you, Ellen!
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    If you've ruled out medical causes and believe it is TMS, then perhaps taking a very incremental approach will work best. For example--how far are you able to walk before the breathlessness kicks in? Try each day to go a little farther, but stop before you get panicky. This way you can slowly build up your confidence. You want reaching your goal to be what stops you, and not the panic, if that makes sense. Otherwise you are conditioning your brain to associate walking with panic. So I suggest not pushing through the panic, but still try to challenge yourself a little, but at a rate that feels safe.

    Best wishes.......
  7. Jamo

    Jamo New Member

    Hi Verity,

    It is so coincidental that you posted this today as I had been thinking earlier of posting a similar thing myself (which I will still do as it is slightly different). I too have panic attacks from getting breathless but I think a lot of it for me is the fear of being unable to breath enough. I am okay walking on flat surfaces but if I have to go uphill much I start thinking in my mind that I am having to breath harder and faster and this starts me panicking that I won't be able to breathe enough and then my throat tightens. It affects my life to a moderate degree. For example I went for a walk with friends the other day and when we went up a slight hill I started panicking and so kept stopping and pretending to take a photograph. I wasn't particularly out of breath (I am reasonably fit) but it is the thought of what might happen that scares me. I did almost drown as a child and wondered if it stemmed from that.

    Ellen is so true with what she says - for me I have associated walking up hill with being out of breath then unable to get enough oxygen and then panic. I tried pushing through it by running furiously up and down the stairs 10 times but had such a bad panic attack it was dreadful and I really wanted to die I was so scared. I did it because I was so angry with myself for being such a baby. I suppose I am too hard on myself. I did wonder if my mind uses the panic attacks to distract me in a similar way to back pain since I spend a lot of time thinking what I can and can't do physically without getting out of breath. I also read the article by Tony Schwartz and he says that exercise is a great outlet for relieving anxiety so perhaps our unconscious minds have created a way to stop us exercising by creating this fear.

    I probably haven't helped you much but wanted to let you know you aren't alone. When I speak to people about this they think I am crazy and just can't understand how you could have a panic attack from exerting yourself.
  8. veritybrown

    veritybrown New Member

    Thank you, Ellen. I'm more worried about pushing through the breathlessness in case I pass out or something or cause myself real harm. Anxiety prevents me from going out too far and even then I can make myself breathless just by thinking about needing to go back, if that makes sense. Currently it's stairs that are my problem so am practicing on them.
  9. veritybrown

    veritybrown New Member

    Jamo, you've been an enormous help!

    Exertion is definitely what floors me. I'm pretty certain it all started from walking up hills. My partner teases me about my idea of a steep gradient. And yes, I too stop frequently and pretend to take photos :)

    You talking about running upstairs made me feel quite peculiar, it's stairs that are my nemesis at the moment. I panic half way up, I can feel my thoughts sliding to the back of my head as my throat tightens and I can't take a full breath. Somehow that is my measure for being over it, once I have managed to take a full deep breath. Until then I feel awful.

    Sadly I've never been a great one for exercising so the idea of starting is quite daunting, especially with the weakness my body now feels from being in pain for several years.

    And it's great to know I am not alone in this. I try and bear in mind that being like this is not being weak, it takes enormous strength coping with it day after day.
    Jamo likes this.
  10. Aurora

    Aurora Peer Supporter

    I highly recommend a book called DARE The New Way To End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks. It also comes with a Facebook group to help you implement the strategy. So many people in the group share your symptoms of panic attacks and breathlessness and have overcome them and they help others do the same.

    It was only in the last year that I've realized that I've been trying to repress anxiety but that only makes it stronger. Once you embrace the anxiety, and I know that sounds scary, it won't scare you anymore. Everytime you stop walking because you're scared of panic you tell your brain "this is dangerous" and it will create physical sensations to make you stop doing it.

    I also recommend that you read the book, "The Little Book of Big Change" It teaches you to break habits and panic attacks are habits. It goes well with the previous book.
  11. kld03c

    kld03c Peer Supporter

    Neither of you are alone, lol. I went on a hike yesterday and once we went up some steep areas and the heart started pumping, my anxiety kicked up a notch. I wanted to run out of the forest lol I didn't and kept going and fortunately finished the short hike and enjoyed the afternoon.
    My fear of over exertion comes from my days as a police academy recruit. We had to do some fairly intense work outs that would some times give me heart palpitations and cause me to throw up. Not to mention the ensuing harassment from some of the other recruits because I was slightly overweight at the time. Its interesting how our mind can put our bodies back into old situations.
  12. Jamo

    Jamo New Member

    It is comforting to know that there are other people out there going through the same thing which is one of the great things about this forum. I'm glad you pushed through your anxiety and enjoyed the rest of your hike.

    I started to panic yesterday during exertion and immediately started beating myself up and getting angry with myself for being a failure mentally but then I sort of had one of those moments when things suddenly become clear in your mind. I could see that berating myself was making me feel even worse so I changed the feelings inside of me (I don't know how!) to one of love and empathy and I started to feel so much better and the feelings of panic went away. Sounds a bit hippie I know but it was a nice feeling and not one that I have ever felt before.
    The mind is an amazing thing indeed.
    kld03c likes this.
  13. kld03c

    kld03c Peer Supporter

    That's not hippie at all! That's exactly the right thing to do. I've been doing similar journaling exercises to help over come the same cognitive distortions that you are talking about. I got the idea for the journaling a while ago from a TMS book. It's from the book calling 'Feeling Good' and the specific exercise is all called the three column technique (I think). Anyway you write down the negative thought such as "I'm a loser", identity the cognitive distortion and then replace the thought with something more realistic. It's helps to reprogram. Just started it about 2 weeks ago. It's amazing how many terrible things we think to ourselves. The first couple of nights that I did it, I was thinking, no wonder I have pain and anxiety.

    It's refreshing to know that we aren't alone and more importantly that there are others who are equally as dedicated to healing. It keeps me motivated. :)
    Jamo likes this.

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