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Can't stop thinking about my breathing

Hey, I haven't been able to stop thinking about my breathing for the past two days. It all started when my teacher mentioned about involuntary breathing. I had experienced this before, but this time I have trouble sleeping, and the moment I wake up I think about it. I tell my parents about it but they think it's a small matter. Someone pls help me, I want my sleep. Btw I'm 16 this year
34 Responses
7603392 tn?1393172750
This has happened to me before its so annoying after a couple of days it goes away bt ugh I hate it
How do you get rid of it.. Please help
Avatar universal
Should I be worried, what about sleep at night??? Sry to bother u
Avatar universal
In my experience with anxiety, it can manifest itself in different ways.  I remember in college when I took some health classes and the professor would talk about certain diseases, some people would start to believe they had those particular symtoms for what we were discussing. It was actually pretty common in that class

Some anxiety from variuos situations is normal in my opinion, however, once it becomes something that gets in the way of 'normal' life than one must start to confront the anxiety in my opinion.  Do you have a history of anxiety?  Do have access to counseling?  
Avatar universal
I'm actually abit of a worry ward but I think this is more like a mind over matter situation, I do not have access to counseling. I'm just worried about my sleep, don't want to be deprived. Otherwise I can handle it quite well but once in a while I get frustrated when thinking how I was normal b4 in the past. Thanks anyway
7359862 tn?1390320080
It is a common symptom with anxiety. Try and do ANYTHING to get your mind off it. Read, watch a movie, play games, exercise, go for a walk, listen to music. Also try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth big breaths to calm yourself. The more you focus on it the more you'll notice it.
Avatar universal
Thanks, do u reckon it'll take a couple of days to go away. In the morning, the first thing I think of is breathing is that bad?
7359862 tn?1390320080
Nope, I do it to, but then get busy in my day and forget about it. The more I busy myself the better my days seem to be. Good luck to you.
Avatar universal
I'm a lot older and wiser than you, and I went through a long period, like a year, where I thought about my breathing almost constantly. It was my first thought on waking up. Many times an hour I would feel that I couldn't get a full breath. I would try to yawn, try to take a full breath, finally get a satisfying full breath, and then the cycle would begin again. Like you, it was triggered by a specific thought, when someone I knew had a lung problem. And I'm sorry to say that it wasn't "a couple of days" to go away. Don't be discouraged if this is something you have to live with for a while, and it may flare up during times of stress over your lifetime. But, I have a family and responsibilities and (except for that one trip to the ER, oh, and another trip to the doctor who prescribed an inhaler--useless--and a couple of medical tests) I went on with life and it gradually got better. Not that it was easy. I pretty much assumed that I would die and there wasn't anything I could do about it. By thinking about breathing I was forcing it and breathing too fast, like if I stopped I would never start again. I forgot what regular breathing even felt like. But now I realize that there is a big pause after exhaling before you automatically inhale. Your body will breathe correctly if you let it, but how do you concentrate on not concentrating on something? Impossible. So you just have to try really hard to distract yourself. It may take a long time to totally get over it, but it sounds like you have a good attitude toward this so you will probably handle it better than me. At age 16, it's good to get a lot of sleep, but some sleepless nights are not going to harm you. You'll have a lot of those if you go to college anyway. Hang in there, you are at one of the hardest ages. It will get easier!
Hi I can say im goin through the same thing the doctors did the same thing I wake up with the with all the same things ure goin through  I suffer from high anxiety for ten years I am now 26 I was wondering if I could get in contact with you to talk about this problem thanks heaps ..mitch
Jonesy135 i agree with you! i need also to talk to somebody about this
When would you like to talk about this I went through last feb now its come back how can I get in contact with you kind regards mitch
If anybody sees this, I would like to talk to somebody if possible.  
Thank you
Your are adding to an old post.  If you want others here to respond to you make a new post and give some detail about what's going on so folks can respond.
jackerdandy, I said pretty much everything I could in my post in 2014.  I think it will help you very much to read all the comments below and you will see how common this problem is. Of course, the problem has returned for me, though much less severe, during this Covid epidemic. But it is not associated with a cough, I know that for me it is NOT Covid. (Of course, if you have fever and cough call your doctor, don't listen to me!)  It feels horrible - like I can't get a full breath except occasionally. A feeling of tightness in chest. This is a symptom of panic attack Another one is a feeling of unreality, and that is even worse. People may tell you to meditate or do deep breathing exercises - for me that doesn't help because concentrating on taking deep breaths only triggers the feeling.  The only solution is to try to relax and the way to do that for me is distraction - read a book that I enjoy or talk to someone.  Maybe you could try going for a long walk.  If you can do that, you must have pretty good lungs, right?  A person who is truly breathless can't walk across the room.  (Call your doctor if you are really concerned, this is just my experience and views.)  Take care.
It can also be due to sore ribs, which is something that some people get, just like some people have sore knees etc. I get sharp chest pains once a week or less but take a deep breath and it goes away so I know it is not a breathing issue.  And I cough a few times daily or feel like there might be a congestion but again I take a few deep breaths and it's gone so it's nothing, and I feel better immediately. Hopefully you have no issue but check with doc if you are concerned that things are not normal.
Avatar universal
I used to think about my breathing.I have suffered bad anxiety for ten years.I had it under control but recently its came back,i am at my happiest when I am on the soda doing nothing.Back to the breathing,its hard,you have to just try and drift off watch movies,walk,play computer,one things for sure you will never stop breathing.Chill.Good luck : )
Avatar universal
I used to think about my breathing.I have suffered bad anxiety for ten years.I had it under control but recently its came back,i am at my happiest when I am on the sofa doing nothing.Back to the breathing,its hard,you have to just try and drift off watch movies,walk,play computer,one things for sure you will never stop breathing.Chill.Good luck : )
Avatar universal
I have the same problem as you..I wake up and straight away think can I get that deep breath then start feeling warn out and tired and need to breath deeper and sometimes I just can't catch it which is the worst part. I couldn't believe it was anxiety as I have never been a anxious person but I guess just have to deal with it .. I've had it 4 months now .i think we need to just get on with it and hope it will just ease up
Avatar universal
Since I had this problem for quite a long time and it actually got so bad that I slept less than 2 hours every night for a whole week, just because I would have to think of my breathing which would then increase my heart rate making it impossible to sleep. It was a truly horrible and depressing time.
But I have good news :) I know how to fix this problem. There are a combination of things you can do. The most important one is:
Whenever you have to think of your breathing... just breathe. And yes I mean consciously. Breathe and try to think about how this breathing consciously doesn't bother you at all (I know it obviously those, but just say this to yourself and try to realize that it isn't a bad feeling and that everything is fine). Keep doing this until it goes away. Don't try to distract yourself because it will NOT work. I've been there. Other things that you can do that will help are: breathing meditation, mindfulness, exercise and positive affirmations

With these thing I completely solved my problem, I hope it helps!
I just get so irritated while I am conscious of my breathing though. But you give me hope that it can be solved while others who post about having it for years scares me. I've had it for 3 weeks now and I hate that it's not going away.
Avatar universal
Yesssuiiih, thanks for the tip. The thing is though, that I started obsessing about my breath after I started doing meditation/mindfulness, which is about focusing on breath. After the meditation, I just couldn't not to think about my breath. So now I am afraid to use it to fix my issue since it is the cause of my problem in the first place. Weird.
Avatar universal
This Feeling is all about your Brain.Human Brains have memory cells to do a task without our knowledge like Breathing.OK coming to point,I recommend you to make a time to think about breathing. Fix a time to think about breathing(Make once per day).At that time you should do good breathing. Good breathing is that to make Belly Breathing.When you breathe,you should expand your lungs only,not your chest.(Tip: Expand your Belly While breathing).Don't make fast Breathing ,Go slowly and think that you are relaxing. After some Breathes Go for meditation.If you are not familiar with meditation not to worry.Just sit/lie down on your comfort zone Read some books that you always like to read.I always recommend to read good books that will always helpful to forget unnecessary thoughts/memories that running through your mind.Also Meditation helps to calm your mind and gives a great feeling to boost your confidence and before you go reading books practice meditation. Here are your tips: Sit straight so that your back bone is straight Make your atmosphere Calm.(keep your eyes closed) Now Count your Breathe upto 5(for 1 count inhale and exhale) and now count 1 to 50 in reverse order(try counting as seconds). After you finish counting you will notice that you can breathe without your knowledge.Repeat the process number of times you like but don't fix some count to do it.you do it until you satisfy.
Follow the tip given by yesssuiiih.It also a good tip. Important thing is to never get panic about your problem thats the only reason that makes you feel depressed and increase your problem. And i want the feedback  so post a comment.
Avatar universal
Well put I've had this on and off for twenty years going through a bad time with it at the moment I just can't distract from it I don't feel so alone now
Avatar universal
Does anybody get the aching just under the ribcage after constantly thinking about your breathing its such an horrible feeling
Recently happened to me about 2 weeks ago and I get this
Hi Tdddy.  This seems to be something fairly common when people are anxious.  Right now with covid 19 I want to make sure you aren't sick in any other way.  Another possibility is that you maybe have some gastric reflux going on AND anxiety both.  
Hi specialmom. Unfortunately my breathing obsession/air hunger all started after a panic attack Around a month ago. No other symptoms and actually had all tests I.e blood, chest X-ray, ecg. It’s just when I breathe it doesn’t seem ‘sufficient’. It seemed to have happened overnight. Thanks for your reply
This then sounds like a lingering part of the trauma of having that panic attack.  Panic attacks are profoundly upsetting, especially the first ones, and trauma can cause us to remember what it felt like and not lose that memory.  This is especially common among anxiety sufferers.  To fix this will require you to either separate this symptom of an anxiety attack from your anxiety attacks through relaxation exercises, exercise, breathing exercises you do both when you're not and when you are having a panic attack, and meditation.  It might not get rid of your anxiety problem but it might get rid of this symptom.  Therapy, probably CBT, might help with the anxiety itself.  Best of luck.
Avatar universal
Hi, I have this too, started about a month ago!got myself in such a state about it thought there was something wrong with me! it turned me into having anxiety and depression! it was horrible! I still have it but during the day I try not to think about it or say to myself I'm not going to let this worry me anymore, and feel a bit better
Avatar universal
i feel for everyone that is going through this, it is horrible to have, thinking u cant breath all the time, i spend most of the day shaking and panicking, worst time for me is the mornings, i went to the doctors after 15 years of not going as i was scared there was somrthing wrong with me, she said it was anxiety and gave me sertraline, it made me ill after 3 days so stoped taking them, its hard to stop thinking about your breathing esp when its in your head 24/7, i couldnt eat, lost a stone in 10 days, couldnt sleep, i try not to let it worry me then start to relax, it calms me down a bit when i have a drink, but shouldnt have to do that, this has stopped me from being able to leave the house, i just want to be normal again, i keep thinking am i ever going to get better, if i was to stop thinkingabout my breathing then i would be better, just want it to all go away
Avatar universal
Jess123456 you are going through what I am at this moment it's very frightening been off work three weeks now it's an living hell been brilliant b 4 that for about 12 months so believe me when I say that it will get better the anxiety of thinking about your breathing then causes depression and then you then feel a fear of hopelessness it's a vicious circle.I've cried a lot got angry and then theirs the guilt it's all locked in together.if you ever won't to talk I'm here you will get through this we have the same symptoms I don't feel so quite alone in the world thanks for posting
You should act like that’s not a big problem, so your brain is like “oh, it seems like I don’t care about this thought, best thing to do is leave it and forget it” do this for 2 months, then tell me the benefits/problems with this, also observe your heart and also try to change that habit too!
Avatar universal
I feel the same way I am constantly thinking about my breathing when I try to take a deep breath and I don't get the air I begin to panic I then begin to hyperventilate and go into a panic this is very frustrating and I just don't know how to get rid of this feeling any suggestions help
Avatar universal
Mine started with my brain thinking on its own on how i breathe , i always have these problems, things that really disturb me , i study all the time, but this thing isnt letting me study good anymore, i sometimes read with voice which might help, but it gets to a level where my heart beats higher than 100bpm i really cant help it its been for over a month now .
mee too pls can we talk? :(
Avatar universal
Hi, I am having this problem myself, but the only time I do not think about it is when I'm sleeping. This causes me want to sleephttp://www.medhelp.org/posts/new/2102444# all the time! What do you mean positive affirmations? Please explain a little more
Avatar universal
Wow, I feel terrible that I haven't found this thread sooner. Everybody please read my entire post thoroughly (ENTIRE POST). I will provide insight on exactly what it is that's happening to you and how to solve this problem.

First off lets go over exactly what it is that's happening here. Before you began to have this issue, your mind functioned in what seemed to be a completely normal manner (it is still functioning completely normal - I will explain). You used to go about your day with your mind drifting from reality to daydreaming and back to reality. In the past, when something was stressing you out, it would sit in the back of your mind and cause elevated stress/anxiety levels. You would watch TV or try to do something to get your mind off it. This would help at times but it never completely got rid of what was bothering you. Your anxiety levels would temporarily subside until you went back to thinking about your problem and the stress would come on again.

So now think about a stressful situation you've had in the past. Think about how you went about solving that problem and removing the stress. There are two ways to do this successfully.

1) Take action to fix the problem (Example: Lost Job > Feel Stressed > Find New Job > Stress Alleviated)

2) Reassess the way your mind is perceiving a situation (Example: Divorced by Spouse > You Feel Stressed and Believe You Will Never Be Happy Again > Realize This is Not True By Any Means and Things Will Be Fine > Stress Alleviated)

(we will be focusing on method #2)

Now lets see where this breathing situation falls within all of this. The first moment you breathed manually, it slightly surprised you. It was surprising that you lived your entire life not realizing you can breathe manually. Then you intentionally wanted to stop focusing on your breathing and get back to your regular flow of thoughts. This was not so simple. The more you tried, the more difficult it seemed. This vicious cycle repeated itself until your anxiety/stress levels were elevated. Your mind then perceived manual breathing as a threat. Each of us have a part of our brain that assesses threats (known as the fight-or-flight center). Whenever a threat is perceived by the brain, this area of the brain takes over and raises your anxiety levels. We need this part of our brain to survive. If a lion leaps in front of you, it is this part of your brain that has you sprinting away as fast as possible. This part of the brain is what is at the epicenter of your breathing problem.

So now that you have a better idea of what it is that's happening, I will now teach you how to get past this. I know what you're thinking, maybe this won't work. Maybe what he is about to say worked for some people, but it won't work for me. Well, let me assure you - I, as well as thousands of psychologists and cognitive behavior therapists, are one hundred percent sure this will work if you follow through with it and trust us. If you end up having issues taking these steps on your own, I would strongly suggest seeing a cognitive behavior therapist to assist you with this process. You won't be the first person to come to them with this problem, and certainly not the last either.

Okay, first off I would like you to start things off with a simple exercise. I want you to grab your favorite book or open a webpage with some content you are interested in reading. Now before you begin to read this material, I need you to make a conscious effort to focus on your breathing throughout. That's right, focus on your breathing while reading. Every now and then if you forget about your breathing, shift your focus back to it. The longer you can focus on your breathing while reading the better. See if you can do it for an entire chapter!

Now your going to realize something when doing this. You keep forgetting about breathing and have to bring your focus back to it. Why is this? Well, it's how the brain works. The mind tends to drift on it's own making it difficult to stay focused on your breathing (ironic huh?). But I want you to keep trying to focus on your breathing, and not just when reading. Watch a movie and try to pay attention to your breathing throughout. Get comfortable with the idea that you want to focus on your breathing.

Now after doing this for a while (a few days) I want you to start trying to take full clean breathes while you are focusing on your breathing. See if every minute or so you can fully inhale and completely exhale. Believe it or not most people's breathing mechanics are poor. By focusing on your breathing and making sure you take deep breathes you are actually promoting your health.

Something else you may notice with this exercise, you can focus on breathing while doing things. That's right guys, the brain can multitask incredibly. You can focus on your breath and also do everything you did before - trust me. Personally, I enjoy focusing on my breathing as much as possible. I honestly wish I could remember to bring my focus to it more often. You must view it as a relaxing and enjoyable experience.

You see the issue right now is your brain associates manual breathing with danger. As if it somehow is threatening to your wellbeing. Your goal is to be comfortable with having your attention on your breath. And you will achieve this the more you work toward it.

Now the next thing I want you to do is learn mindfulness meditation. Books are available on it and guided meditations are also available on youtube. This is a game changer folks. Mindful meditation will teach you how to reach complete mental calmness (nothing to do with religious beliefs so don't worry about conflicting with your faith). It is a truly incredible feeling. This step can not be skipped.  

Now the last thing I want you to do. This step goes a little deeper. Your life up until this point has probably been plagued with anxiety to a certain extent. I want you to realize something here. This ordeal could end up having a tremendously positive effect on your life. You now have a better understanding on how anxiety can put your life in a chokehold. You should view getting past this hurdle as just scratching the surface on life. Let this motivate you to learn as much possible about the incredible mind you possess and live a more fulfilling life.

I genuinely hope I have helped some readers out there with handling this. Take care everybody!


This might help some, but might actually exasperate the issue for others. You are telling people to create a ritual that some already might have because of the issue. If you are thinking about breathing then you are already intentionally trying to control your breathing pattern, which is something you don't want to do. I am going through this right now, and from what I've read and understood is that this is form of OCD, Sensorimotor OCD to be exact. Yes, exposure is the method used to get through it, but you don't want to try and control your breathing! This article by Dr. Steven Seay explains the condition and how to get through it. He even states, " this person must also abstain from any rituals used to prematurely “escape” from their anxiety (distraction, over-controlling breath, counting breaths, analyzing breaths, etc.)." (http://www.steveseay.com/treatment-body-focused-obsessions-ocd/)
This exposure therapy is called Exposure with response prevention (ERP) therapy.

I know that you are trying to help, but I find that our advise to be highly dangerous to someone that is going through the issue like myself.
This is the best solution I've come across so far. I have this same problem only I also count my breaths as well. It's very distracting and on my bad days I  count to almost a thousand. Do you have any advice on how to treat the counting along with the breathing obsession
Also, look into ACT Acceptance Commitment Therapy.

Avatar universal
Very helpful comment YourSavior! And honestly all of you made me feel better knowing im not alone. I've had this for 3 years now and no one was able to understand me, so i just stopped trying to explain.
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