HomeAnswersInternal Medicinesleep apneaCan anxiety cause breathlessness?

Is my breathlessness really due to anxiety?


The following is an actual conversation between an iCliniq user and a doctor that has been reviewed and published as a Premium Q&A.

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Published At November 16, 2016
Reviewed AtAugust 8, 2023

Patient's Query

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 icliniq.com. I have the following recommendations for you to improve your health. To begin, quit smoking immediately and adopt a healthy diet while focusing on weight loss. Start with a 10-minute physical exercise routine and gradually increase its intensity, such as simple walking. By following these steps, sleep apnea may eventually subside. Consider having a stress ECG to identify any heart vessel spasms during exertion. If your condition doesn't improve, consult a psychiatrist to alleviate your anxiety.

Same symptoms don't mean you have the same problem. Consult a doctor now!

Dr. Salah Saad Hassan Shoman
Dr. Salah Saad Hassan Shoman

Internal Medicine

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