Chronic hyperventilation

HyperventilationHyperventilation is when your breathing is significantly faster than normal. In some cases we can talk about acute hyperventilation. It can also be that you are continuously breathing incorrectly. In that case we are talking about chronic hyperventilation. This can be because of prolonged stress. In this article we will discuss what chronic hyperventilation entails.

What is hyperventilation?

Without having to think, we breathe. The breath comes through a natural reflex. Our lungs fill themselves with oxygen and this is then used by our organs and muscles for our bodily functions. We convert the oxygen in our body into carbon dioxide and we get rid of this through our out breath.
When we are talking about hyperventilation, you are breathing in too much oxygen too quickly. This is the result of a too fast or deep breath. In a short amount of time, too much oxygen is then entering in the body and we are breathing too much carbon dioxide as well. Through this arises a shortage of carbon dioxide in the blood and bodily functions will be disturbed because of this. As a result of this we can start to feel out of air and cramped, experience heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and tingling of the fingers, feet or mouth.

What is the difference between acute and chronic hyperventilation?

There are clear differences between acute hyperventilation and chronic hyperventilation. With acute hyperventilation the symptoms are very clear: your breathing increases in an audible pace, you are looking pale and are sweating. Besides this you will experience heart palpitations; it seems like your heart is skipping a beat. As a result of this you can start to become fearful and think that something bad is happening. Moreover you can see double and hazy and the hands and feet can start tingling. After a while the attack will stop by itself. After this you will often feel tired and exhausted.
With chronic hyperventilation you are thus continuously experiencing a too quick or deep breathing. The symptoms are the same as with acute hyperventilation, but usually much less intense. Besides you can also experience other vague symptoms. Because the symptoms are not clearly there, it can be the case that someone is hyperventilating throughout the day and is not aware of this. Sometimes the complaints are noticed, but one may not think about chronic hyperventilation straight away. It can therefore take a long time before the right diagnose is made.
Because of the hyperventilation, many patients are experiencing different fears, one of them being a fear of diseases. When the diagnose is only made after this time, it is often more difficult to treat the chronic hyperventilation. You are then already in a negative spiral of fears and insecurities. This will cause stress and trigger the hyperventilation. When you notice that you are suffering from the above mentioned complaints (even though the symptoms are hardly noticeable), it is important that you go and see a doctor. Then you can be examined and it can be determined if there is a case for chronic hyperventilation and you can start a treatment.

What are the causes?

When we start to investigate the causes of chronic hyperventilation, we should first have a look at the breath. Normally the interaction between oxygen and carbon dioxide is even, but when you are breathing too quickly and too deep, this harmony can be disturbed. Through this you will start to feel less well. You are starting to experience a pressing feeling on the chest and hearth palpitations, you are starting to feel dizzy and you are sweating. The hyperventilation thus arises because you are breathing out too much carbon dioxide. The body does this automatically with certain feelings of stress, fear and emotions.
So far it is still quite unsure what the exact cause of chronic hyperventilation is. Most patients will experience stress, restlessness or a depression for prolonged periods of time. A person with chronic hyperventilation also keeps emotional feelings inside, but these feelings will convert themselves into bodily symptoms. People will start to breathe quicker and deeper (often unconsciously) and we are talking about chronic hyperventilation. In the Western world, in which stress and a pressure to perform are almost the norm, many people will start to experience this condition.
Because it often takes a while before chronic hyperventilation is determined, the real cause is often not easily determined. Before the diagnose is made, the person with hyperventilation has often already experienced a lot of frustrations. This is because this person knows that something is not right, but medical examinations often do not give the right explanation for this. These frustrations often make the hyperventilation worse. Once the right diagnose is finally made, it is often difficult to think of where the stress and insecurities came from in the first place.
We however do know that certain situations can be the cause of hyperventilations. Often the people with this condition will feel overburdened by stress or too much work. It can also be the case that a traumatic happening (such as a death or burglary) or psychological aspects (not enough self worth) can be the cause. Furthermore, hyperventilation can arise through environmental stress (the people in the direct environment of the patient are too busy), dietary problems (vitamin shortage) and problems with expressing emotions. Often it is a combination of a multiple of the above mentioned causes.

How is chronic hyperventilation treated?

We are talking about a quickened or too deep breathing when discussing chronic hyperventilation. To cure from chronic hyperventilation or to at least reduce the negative effects of it, it is important that you start learning how to breathe correctly. For this you can go to a respiratory therapist. Besides, it is a good idea to to tackle the cause of this condition. Stress and negative emotions are the cause of chronic hyperventilation. A psychological treatment can help to process emotions and reduce stress. Sometimes respiratory therapy in combination with a psychological treatment are not enough. In this case the treating doctor can prescribe you medicine, such as calming drugs, antidepressants or beta-blockers.

What can you do yourself with chronic hyperventilation?

With a certain breathing exercise you can measure yourself if you are experiencing chronic hyperventilation. Set a stopwatch to one minute. Every time that you take a breath you mark a line on a piece of paper. After one minute you count how many lines you have put on your paper. In this way you get to know how many breaths you take in a minute. Are breathing in and out for more than 10 times a minute? In that case you are possibly experiencing chronic hyper ventilation. When in rest, you should not have to breathe more than 10 times per minute. In a resting position you can be with less breaths a minute, because your body does not need that much oxygen at that time. People with chronic hyper ventilation often breathe more than 10 times per minute. When you notice that you are suffering from this, it is important that you lower the amount of breaths per minute.
There are a couple of ways through which you can reduce the effects of chronic hyperventilation. A simple trick is to lengthen your out breath. Wait about two or three seconds longer than normal before you breathe in again. It is of course difficult to think about this the whole day, but if you do this a couple of moments a day, you will learn it by itself. Do it for in stance three times a day for a period of three minutes. Furthermore it is good to learn how to breathe properly. When you breathe in, your belly needs to expand. When you breathe out, your belly contracts again. Try to breathe calmly and pay attention to your belly that it is expanding. Do this together with the longer out breaths a few minutes a day for a few times per day.
Because stress and emotions trigger and worsen chronic hyperventilation, you are best off avoiding stressful situations as much as possible. This is of course not always possible. What you can do is take a break more often and enjoy your life. This reduces stress and makes you happier. Pay attention to the positive things that are there in your life and be thankful for the things that you have. Through this you will experience less stress and negative emotions, and in turn you can reduce your chronic hyperventilation.


Article written by: roybor
Times read: 1388x
Added: 15-02-2017 11:36
Last modified: 04-05-2017 21:30

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