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Emotion-induced asthma

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Emotions are an integral part of life. As long as there is life, there will be emotions, some good, some bad, some indifferent. Emotions can be common ones like sadness when we lose someone or something very near and dear to us; or happiness when we gain something that we value highly such as someone’s love and affection or simply win a prize or trophy. There are other emotions which are rather complicated and come in mixed avatars such as the ones we go through in relationships with other people. Whichever way you look at emotions, they are unavoidable, but they also make our lives that much more interesting to live.

Asthma as you know is difficulty in breathing. It is mainly brought about by constriction or narrowing of air passages which become over-sensitive due to a variety of factors. This phenomenon is called ‘bronchial hyper-reactivity’ and is the basic underlying cause of asthma. If you thought that allergy is the only trigger for asthma, think again, as it is in fact brought on by several other things like cold weather, respiratory infections, vigorous exercise and so on. Strong negative emotions can trigger asthma, so can even a hearty bout of laughter or sobbing cum weeping. Not everyone responds equally or similarly to an emotional stress. Some get emotional at the mildest provocation while others may carry on nonchalantly.


How do emotions trigger asthma? Strong emotions such as fear, excitement or anger affect the way we breathe. Our breathing becomes quicker, shallower and less regular. We also tend to breathe through our mouths. Because this air has not passed through our noses, it has not been warmed to suit the body temperature as it should normally be in order to protect the delicate inner lining of our air passages. As a result, air breathed through the mouth hits the airways in a dry and cold state, which provokes the air passages to constrict in response, thus causing asthma. Emotion induced asthma is not at all uncommon. In susceptible cases, watching a tear-jerker movie can even lead to 50 % of asthmatic attacks.


Managing emotion-induced asthma calls for counselling and behaviour therapy and not merely pumping in aerosols or popping anti-asthmatic tablets. Introspection and support from family and friends helps a lot in controlling the attacks. (https://www.asthma.org.uk accessed 1 December 2018)

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