Why Do I Feel Like I Can’t Breathe? Discovering the Cause

As humans, we take the simple act of breathing for granted. It is a reflex that happens without us even thinking about it. But what happens when something goes wrong with our respiratory system and breathing becomes difficult? If you've ever felt like you can't breathe, whether it's due to anxiety or a physical condition, then you know just how scary and overwhelming it can be.

Why Do I Feel Like I Can

In this article, we'll explore some common causes of breathlessness so that you can understand what might be causing your symptoms (like seriously guys! Let's get into this!).

Anxiety Can Make You Feel Like You Can't Breathe

Anxiety is one of the most common reasons why people feel like they can't breathe normally. When we're anxious, our bodies go into "fight-or-flight" mode which means our heart rate increases and our muscles tense up in preparation for danger (cue lion roar).

This response also affects our breathing - shallow breathing or hyperventilation are common symptoms of an anxiety attack. The more worried we become about not being able to catch our breath, the worse these symptoms can become (I mean... who wouldn’t panic right???)!

If anxiety is causing your shortness of breath then addressing the root cause will usually resolve your problems but there’s more...

What Physical Conditions Might Be Causing My Breathlessness?

There are a variety of health conditions that may result in feeling out of breath sometimes. While serious underlying conditions exist (That Guy on WebMD wasn’t completely lying), here are some other culprits:

Asthma: More Than Just Feeling Short Of Breath Mid-Run

Asthma is a respiratory illness where airways narrow making it hard for air to flow in/out efficiently leading sufferers with shortness/breathlessness. It's important to find a medical professional if you believe you may have this condition (panic over air shortage can lead to hyperventilation).

Pneumonia: Your lower respiratory tract is important

Pneumonia (more commonly caused by bacterial or viral infection) inhibits your lungs from functioning correctly. This causes coughing, fever and fatigue while leaving you with that sensation of being unable to breathe freely.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - not just smoking-related

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers generally to various lung diseases like chronic bronchitis/ emphysema that damage the tissues lining the lungs; it could reduce vital oxygen transport leading breathlessness thereby lessening your capability for common daily activities!

If these are sounding way too ‘worrisome’ don’t worry yet! Let's move on...

You Might Just Be Outta Shape

Feeling out of shape happens sometimes – We overate during quarantine or simply having been inactive physically for extended periods. These contribute towards fitness levels weakening overall wellbeing which leads us feeling breathless after basic activity like climbing stairs or running some errands (wow profusely sweating has now become our new normal state!).

It’s encouraged when necessary, taking gradual steps toward returning back in shape preferably under direction of certified personal trainers/motion experts reducing likelihoods for shortness of breath, excessive sweating etcetera!

The Environmental Factors

People often overlook environmental factors. Here are two possible explanations:

Polluted Air Quality : Don't take breathing fresh air lightly!

Pollution in air quality is an easy "forgotten" factor contributing largely to difficulty in regular breathing patterns. Especially considering non-conducively polluted living spaces paired with other harmful environmental conditions. So let's always remember clean environment means better health collectively as humans!

High Altitude & Lowered Oxygen Levels : Don't ignore long-term damage!

High altitude areas may lead to high altitudes sickness whereby symptoms due to lowered oxygen levels manifest such as shortness of breath could turn potentially problematic in long term exposure.

What Should You Do If You Can't Breathe?

It's recommended seeking immediate medical attention if someone is struggling with the following (best time to actually go on WebMD) :

  • Lips/nails getting bluish.
  • Severe chest pain or confusion
  • Unable to speak without gasping for air

Being equipped with knowledge of what caused breathing difficulties, including identifying your local emergency health number/hotline can save lives where necessary (Not meaning sound alarming!)


To conclude, it’s beneficial being aware different causes that contribute towards feeling uncomfortable while focusing on underlying illnesses and factors contributing significantly. Hope you found this informative (& hopefully) entertaining too! Stay safe ♥️

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