Q. Is my breathlessness really due to anxiety?

Answered by
Dr. Salah Saad Shoman
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Nov 16, 2016 and last reviewed on: Nov 07, 2020

Hello doctor,

Three years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was traveling to my sister's home about 45 minutes from my home. My grandmother gave me a peppermint and as I swallowed it felt as if a piece got stuck in my throat. I got a strong sensation that I could not breathe. When I reached my sister's home, I took a walk outside and within 10 minutes the sensation went away. I had this issue on and off for the next couple of years, yet it was manageable. Fast forwarding to this year, the symptoms have worsened. I have severe shortness of breath all day long with no relief, sharp pain on the left side of the chest, arm and sometimes jaw pain, headaches, lightheadedness, weakness, insomnia, out of touch with reality and nervousness. I feel like I am going to die at any minute.

In the last two months, I have been to the ER about six times. Whenever I go, the doctor will say it as GERD and panic attacks. Once, I visited a hospital for chest pain and they admitted me for observation as one of my enzyme tests came back minimally high. The doctor stated that she wanted to keep me on observation, because of my family history of heart disease and I am a smoker. All my tests were normal, but my symptoms are still present. My PCP prescribed me 5 mg Buspar twice daily and Zoloft 100 mg once daily. I have been on these for a month with absolutely no results. He set me up in order to see a pulmonary physician; however, stated that it was extremely unlikely that I had any breathing restrictions due to the several tests I have had. Also, stated that he was fairly confident that my heart was fine. I have lost count of the EKGs, ECGs, CT scans, chest x-rays, and blood work, which is all negative. He did mention that my physical symptoms could potentially be coming from sleep apnea.

I know that I have caused some of this on myself, because I am obese and I do smoke. I have no quality of life and at this point I am beginning to feel depressed. I barely can get through a shift at work. When I stay at home, I am afraid to be alone. Also, driving is a nightmare. I am at my wits end; I just feel a sense of hopelessness and also feel as if the doctors do not believe that my symptoms exist. I am just a 29 year old female. Is this really due to anxiety? What step should I take next in order to get better? Please help me. I have a 3 year old daughter and I want to enjoy my life with her. I think about my death daily because of the chest pain and shortness of breath.



Welcome to

I have the following recommendations to you. If you really want to help yourself, then start immediately.

Quit smoking immediately. Follow a healthy diet and start losing weight.

Initially, start with a 10 minute physical exercise and increase it gradually. By that, I mean a very simple walking to start with.

Please you follow these steps and sleep apnea will eventually go away. Have a stress ECG to identify if your blood vessels of heart spasm on exertion.

If things did not improve, then visit a psychiatrist to alleviate your anxiety.

For further information consult an internal medicine physician online -->

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