Panicked? Don't Take a Deep Breath

Shallow breathing will actually make you feel better
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2011 12:37 PM CST
Deep breathing may not help you stop panicking.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Feeling panicked? Calm down and take a … shallow breath. Researchers who developed a new treatment for panic attacks say that the common advice of taking a deep breath can actually make you feel worse, LiveScience reports. That’s because breathing too deeply and too quickly can cause you to hyperventilate, which in turn makes you dizzy and short of breath because of the high amount of carbon dioxide that is expelled. “It's not because they have a lack of oxygen, it's because they're exhaling too much air," says a researcher.

Because of that, "'Take a deep breath' is not a helpful instruction,” she adds, but “it's very challenging for patients to learn not to breathe deep, because they're feeling sort of breathless.” Breathing slowly doesn’t necessarily help, but taking shallow breaths can. In a study of 41 people with panic disorder and agoraphobia, patients learned to use the new treatment capnometry-assisted respiratory training, or CART. Panic symptoms went down, and by using CART’s shallow breathing techniques, hyperventilation decreased as well.

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