Stop panic attacks using advanced breath control
Our breathing pattern has profound effects on the brain. Unnoticeable changes in breathing can reduce oxygenation and blood supply by 20-30%. Over 90% patients diagnosed with panic attacks have hidden or visible hyperventilation. Just observe their breathing for a minute. Why is it dangerous? Normal breathing is invisible and inaudible. Moreover, it provides more oxygen for the brain. When we breathe heavier or deeper, there are 3 measurable and scientifically-proven effects ...
Breathing and the brain
Our breathing pattern has profound effects on the brain. Unnoticeable changes in breathing can reduce oxygenation and blood supply by 20-30%. Over 90% patients diagnosed with panic attacks have hidden or visible hyperventilation. Just observe their breathing for a minute. Why is it dangerous? Normal breathing is invisible and inaudible. Moreover, it provides more oxygen for the brain. When we breathe heavier or deeper, there are 3 measurable and scientifically-proven effects caused by CO2 deficiency:
* Increased excitability of all nerve cells. We are too excited when we hyperventilate (http://www.normalbreathing.com/ed4C-CO2-Stabilizer.html)
* Reduced blood flow to the brain (http://www.normalbreathing.com/ed4A-CO2-Vasodilation.html). Our brains get less blood supply. This physiological fact can be found in many textbooks. As Professor Newton from the of recently reported, “cerebral blood flow decreases 2% for every mm Hg decrease in CO2” (, 2004). That means that with each second decrease in the CP, blood flow to the brain is less by almost 1%. Less blood means a decreased supply of glucose (the main fuel for the brain in normal conditions), oxygen, and other nutrients. In addition, it causes gradual accumulation of waste products.
* The suppressed Bohr effect. Less oxygen is released in tissues due to CO2 deficiency (http://www.normalbreathing.com/ed4B-CO2-Bohr.html). Not only is the inflow of oxygen less, but also its release is hampered by low CO2 concentrations. That further reduces brain oxygenation.
It is likely that there are other effects of abnormal breathing on the nervous system. Hyperventilation is virtually always manifested in abnormal breathing patterns, including a higher frequency of breathing, shorter exhalations and inhalations, absence of periods of no-breathing, abnormalities in the work of respiratory muscles (e.g., chest breathing), etc. That may cause, for example, the over-activation of sympathetic nervous systems and other negative effects.
Do clinical studies show that patients with mental or psychological problems have heavy breathing?
In 1976 the British Journal of Psychiatry published a study of CO2 measurements in 60 patients with neurotic depression and non-retarded endogenous depression (Mora et al, 1976). All patients had abnormally low carbon dioxide values.
Later, in 1990, American psychiatrists from Hunter College (City University of New York) reported results from several groups of subjects with anxiety, panic phobia, depression, migraine, and idiopathic seizures. The abstract states “virtually all the noncontrol subjects were found to show moderate to severe hyperventilation and accompanying EEG dysrhythmia”. In addition, it notes that hyperventilation and abnormal electrical signals in the brain took place simultaneously.
Canadian scientists from the Department of Psychiatry (University of Manitoba, Winnipeg) measured carbon dioxide concentrations in over 20 patients with panic disorder. Their average CO2 was also below the medical norm (Asmundson and Stein, 1994). There are many other studies that report abnormally low CO2 values for people with various psychological and neurological problems.
Is hyperventilation the cause of these health problems?
While these Western studies suggest the possible role of breathing in the appearance and development of various neurological and psychological diseases, modern medicine and psychiatry have a poor understanding of how gradual changes in breathing impact the development of these diseases.
At the same time, there is no any evidence showing that people with normal breathing parameters can suffer from neurological or psychological problems.
Practical actions during the panic attack
Sit down in any chair, couch, sofa or divan for better relaxation. If there are no objects to sit on, sit on the ground or floor, e.g. on your knees or with criss-crossed legs. Relax all your muscles. Focus on your breathing. It must be huge. Why? Numerous studies proved that panic attack patients breathe 2-3 times more than the medical norm between the acute episodes. During attacks their breathing is even heavier. You are breathing too much!
Focus on your breathing again. What do you feel? If the sensations are vague, take a deep but slow in-breath and relax to slowly exhale. Do you feel the airflow going through your nostrils? Do you have any sensations at the back of your throat? Are there any feelings about movement of air inside the chest and bronchi? What do you sense near your stomach?
Next, instead of taking your usual huge inhalation, take a slightly smaller inhalation (only about 5-10% less) and then immediately relax all muscles, especially upper chest and all other breathing muscles. Take another (smaller) inhalation and again completely relax.
With each breath, take a small or reduced inhalation and then completely relax. You will soon experience light air hunger. The goal is to preserve this light level of air hunger for 2-3 minutes.
The breathing can be frequent during this reduced or shallow breathing but this is OK. If you do the exercise correctly, you will notice that you negative symptoms disappear.
How to check one's breathing and brain oxygenation
Measure your stress-free breath holding time after exhalation. The test is very sensitive to tissue oxygen content and our minute ventilation. How is the test done? After your usual exhalation, pinch your nose and hold your breath only till the first stress or discomfort. When you finish the test and release your nose, you should be able to breathe as before the test. It is particularly important for people with panic attacks to release the nose at first signs of distress.
Normal breath holding time is about 40-60 s. People with panic attacks have about 10-20 s of oxygen.
This is the paradox of breathing: those people, who breathe heavy, have less oxygen in the tissues. While this stress-free version of the test is the safest (many MDs use maximum breath holding time test), some panic attack patients may still experience unpleasant symptoms soon after the test. If this is true for you, avoid this test until the times when your oxygenation is better and the test is 100% safe.
If you normalize your breathing, your breath holding time will be about 40-60 s (a lot of oxygen in the body and the brain), and your problem with panic attacks will disappear. Learn more about this effect, breathing patterns, tissue oxygenation, and breathing retraining at www.normalbreathing.com.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Artour Rakhimov is one of the leading world experts in self-oxygenation, breathing and the Buteyko oxygenation medical therapy. He is the author of books and the educational website www.normalbreathing.com devoted to natural self-oxygenation, breathing education and breathing retraining.