Hyperventilation means breathing more air than your body needs at that time. There are two types: acute and chronic. Most people are familiar with the acute kind that is the normal response to stress. It:
- Floods the body with adrenaline
- Increases the heart and breathing rates
- Puts the nervous system on red alert
- Tenses muscles and increases sweating
“I now feel much better and am enjoying the breathing. I feel calmer and less tired than before undertaking the course” Anxiety, Didsbury.
All of which are useful to escape from danger. This is also known as “fight-or-flight”. However, acute hyperventilation also sometimes happens when you are worried about making a presentation, and instead of being useful it can cause a panic or hyperventilation attack. Long-term stress can also lead to the over breathing becoming permanent, i.e. chronic hyperventilation, and the list of symptoms may continue to grow. Anything can cause stress, be it physical (injury and illness) or emotional (bereavement, bullying, financial worries), and sometimes even when the source of stress is removed, or the person has recovered, it seems their symptoms persist. They don’t associate the wide range of symptoms with abnormal breathing, indeed the breathing pattern may not be obviously abnormal, so they don’t know how to get rid of the symptoms.
“Since learning Buteyko I have recovered my singing voice, have fewer headaches after singing, leg cramps and skin itching have subsided” Hyperventilation, High Peak.
Does this sound familiar?
You feel anxious over nothing. You know you shouldn’t get so wound up, you never used to. You often have a sense of “impendingness” you can’t relax, your shoulders are tense. It is getting really hard to concentrate, you feel “not with it” perhaps a bit light-headed or “whoozy”. You start to feel a bit panicky in new situations, it stops you doing things you used to enjoy. You need to go to the toilet frequently, get worried if you know there isn’t one nearby. Your heart seems to be pounding for no reason. Your world starts to contract. You have the opposite of a feeling of well-being. Maybe you start having headaches or even migraines. Perhaps you find it hard to get a satisfying breath, you feel tension round the throat, breathing is a bit of a struggle.
“Yeah, Buteyko really is working, everything is better and normalising, I’m so glad I got to the bottom of it. I was sick of analysing my thoughts”. Anxiety, depression Manchester.
You feel very unwell, you see the doctor. If you are very lucky, the doctor recognises chronic or hidden hyperventilation and suggests you need to control your breathing. If not you may become a “fat-folder” or “fat-file” patient, in and out of the doctor’s surgery, or even accident and emergency as you feel you must have something seriously wrong with you. Are you losing your mind? Perhaps the doctor will try you on anti-depressants. Perhaps they will tell you you have chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalitis (CFS/ME), the diagnosis left over when they can’t find anything wrong in the standard tests and examinations. Other names for what might be the same thing or have the same underlying cause, at least in part, are tired all the time syndrome (TATT or TATTS) somatisation disorder, Da Costa’s syndrome (shell-shock of war time), hysteria, hypochondriasis, Briquet’s syndrome, Brissaud-Marie syndrome, or even burn out.
“I am a LOT calmer – not panicky at all, which is a real improvement for me. The best money I have ever spent on my health” Asthma, anxiety, Blackpool.
So now perhaps you start with the alternative therapies. In the meantime your symptoms may still be increasing in severity and perhaps some new ones creep in. Perhaps you feel you can’t get enough air, feel anxious and remember the instruction “take a deep breath”! Now you are really heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps you start dosing on vitamins. You are getting more desperate, perhaps you try some of the more outlandish therapies. And so it goes on…..
But there is good news, better breathing can very probably help easy all these symptoms safely and gently, and restore you to sanity!
“The method does take commitment and practice (and I’m still practicing!) but this is a very small price to pay for having your health, and life restored” Hyperventilation, High Peak.
“Exellent progress -immediate improvement – which has continued in a positive way. Now feel in control of my breathing and on the rare occasions when it “dips” I can quickly bring it back to normal. I feel that the key has been really understanding the science behind the hyperventilation – I am NOT ill. Thanks Janet” Anxiety, Chorlton.
“Before I started buteyko breathing with janet i had been off work for a year with anxiety. The doctor tried me on two medications which only made things worse. I was at a dead end and thought i would never get any better. Then i worked for myself that i had chronic hyperventilation syndrome, anxiety being one of many symptoms of this condition which i was experiencing. Then i found janet’s site and booked on a course. Within two weeks i was off my medication, relaxed, breathing better than ever and ready to go back to work. At the time of writing ive been back in work a month, calmer than ever an wondering why doctors dont know more about this technique”. Anxiety Liverpool.
Take the test, if you score 3-4 in 6 or more symptoms, you are not losing your mind, you are not seriously ill, but you probably have hidden hyperventilation. This is good news as you can learn to normalise your breathing and get back control of your health, without medication, by learning the Buteyko breathing method.