Stress, Anxiety and Depression

  • 28 Sep 2010
  • Reading time 5 mins
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How incorrect breathing effects stress, anxiety and depression by Patrick McKeown

Lower carbon dioxide within the blood causes a constriction of the carotid artery, the main blood vessel going to the brain. The extent of constriction depends on genetic predisposition but has been estimated by Gibbs to be as much as 50% for those with anxiety and panic attacks. [1].

This finding is also supported by Ball & Shekhar [2]. Other researchers, including Balestrino and Somjen [3] and Huttunen et al. [4], have demonstrated that CO2 reduces cortical excitability. Cited in Normal Breathing: the key to vital health, “breathing too much makes the human brain abnormally excited due to reduced CO2 concentrations. As a result, the brain gets literally out of control due to appearance of spontaneous and asynchronous ‘self-generated’ thoughts.” Balestrino and Somjen in their summary directly claimed that, “The brain, by regulating breathing, controls its own excitability” [5].

Dr Robert Fried, professor of psychology, states that “the first stage of chronic graded hypoxia (insufficient oxygen), which has repeatedly been shown in the case of chronic hyperventilation, is depression of mood and activity" [6]. Cardiologist Claude Lum comments that “Hyperventilation presents a collection of bizarre and often apparently unrelated symptoms, which may affect any part of the body, and any organ or any system” [7]. He further labels hyperventilation syndrome as the fat file syndrome, noting that patients go from doctor to doctor in an attempt to get help for their symptoms. However, because chronic hyperventilation is overlooked in most instances, the patient might be told after a series of tests that there is nothing wrong with him or her, thus increasing the size of the patients’ file and further adding to his or her anxiety.

In the late Professor Buteyko’s words, “Exhaling Carbon Dioxide from the organism brings about spasms in bronchi, vessels and intestines, etc. This reduces oxygen supply, leading to oxygen deficiency, making one’s breath heavier, thus completing the vicious circle.”

Stress, anxiety and anger causes overbreathing

According to the famous physiologist Walter Cannon, stress activates the fight or flight response. Meeting deadlines, financial pressures, time urgency, marital issues, the pressure of rearing children and wanting to do well in our work, as well as many other factors, add to stress levels.

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