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Why a breathing MOT could help your anxiety.

There's much more to anxiety and depression than just feeling anxious or low. There's a full spectrum of symptoms that you may experience, depending on the severity. You may not even notice you have anxiety (this is often referred to as 'subconscious anxiety) and the only sign that anything is wrong is that you feel a general sense of unease but can't really pinpoint what the exact problem is. At the opposite end of the scale is acute anxiety, where your reaction is so extreme it can lead to feeling out of control and like you are having a panic attack.


Does anxiety affect your breathing - or does your breathing affect your anxiety?!


The answer is a little bit of both. It can be a case of "which came first - the anxiety or the breathing pattern irregularity"!


When you're struggling with anxiety you may notice your breathing changes:


  • your breaths are more shallow

  • your respiratory rate increases

  • you may find you begin to hyperventilate.


Your breathing pattern may also alter if you have depression:

  • your breathing becomes more irregular

  • you may go through short periods of breath-holding

  • your inhalations may become more shallow


When any (or all) of the above occur, the physiological changes to your breathing pattern can then make you feel more anxious because you feel that something is out of place and not working as it should be. And then the cycle begins... you feel more anxious so your breathing pattern changes.


What happens to your body when you have anxiety?


To answer this question we need to look at the autonomic nervous system - the ANS.


This network of nerves runs throughout your body and controls unconscious processes, including breathing. The sympathetic branch of the ANS is triggered when you experience anxiety, and this then induces the "fight or flight" response, which is the way our bodies respond to perceived threats [see our case study here where you can see how this can affect someone in a real-life situation].  This then manifests in rapid, shallow breathing.


If these physiological changes don't last very long or don't happen to you often, then this involuntary reaction won't cause a problem. But sometimes chronic anxiety and depression can cause you to operate in a perpetual state of fight or flight, and therefore disrupted breathing.


Breathing properly can restore the balance


Breathing influences both the sympathetic ('fight or flight') and parasympathetic ('rest and digest) branches of the ANS, but how do you help your body find the right balance?


Practicing the right techniques can promote more parasympathetic calm and relaxation, which then help you consciously take control of your breathing, take control of your nervous system, and in turn take control of your anxiety. It's all about sending the right messages to the emotional centres of our brain to calm down.


A Breathing MOT can help!


If you recognise any of the above then you could benefit from a breathing assessment.

Our breathing MOT service has been developed by respiratory specialists and is run by a team of expert physiotherapists who between them, have decades of experience working with patients with breathing issues. Book in for a breathing MOT and our specialists will help you optimise your breathing, and can advise and direct you to the most appropriate healthcare professional for further treatment, should it be required.

If you'd like to know more email us at enquiries@airphysiotherapy.co.uk, call us on 020 7971 1464. or to click here to book in.

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