Why Can't I Take a Deep Breath?

Difficulty taking deep breaths can be due to many causes. Some of them are harmless and will disappear soon, while others may be a chronic condition that needs immediate attention. If you are experiencing trouble breathing and it is the first time you've encountered this, you should see a doctor immediately to determine if it is something more serious. In this article, we will help you identify what may cause your condiiton and what to do.


Reasons for difficulty taking a deep breath can be categorized by those that occur with exercise and those that occur without exercise. Doctors will usually want to know if your dyspnea, or shortness of breath, occurs only after you exercise or if it occurs out of the blue. This makes a difference in pinpointing the cause. You should also note whether the dyspnea starts gradually or if it happens suddenly.

For instance, trouble breathing that comes with exertion or even at rest can be a sign of a heart attack. Sometimes a heart attack can start from exercising too much, but sometimes the shortness of breath comes on suddenly with no exercise causing it. If you are having crushing chest pain in addition to your difficulty taking deep breaths, you need to call for an ambulance immediately. Not all trouble breathing is a sign of a heart attack, though. You can have this symptom with many other causes.

Asthma is a common cause of trouble taking deep breaths that is related to exercise. Exercise induced asthma is more than just feeling out of breath from exercise. It is a constant inability to take in deep breaths directly after physical activity, and it doesn't go away within a few minutes. You may experience coughing, tightening of the chest, wheezing, and fatigue while exercising.

On the other end of the spectrum are reasons that do not have anything to do with exercise. For instance, general asthma can occur independently of exercise. You will likely feel short of breath, unable to breathe deeply, and may even feel light headed. General asthma can happen for no reason and cause you to have trouble breathing. Usually an inhaler or some form of medication is necessary for this type of trouble taking a deep breath.

Anxiety and panic attacks are another reason that has nothing to do with exercise that could cause you to have difficulty taking deep breaths. When you have a panic attack, your body releases adrenaline, and this hormone causes your heart rate to speed up and your breath to quicken. If you are having a panic attack, you will likely have a difficult time catching your breath, and the more you worry about it, the worse the panic attack becomes. You can even feel a tightening in your chest with a panic attack, and if this is the first time you've felt this way, you should be checked out by a doctor immediately to ensure that it is not a heart attack.

Exposure to certain toxins and chemicals in the air can damage your lungs and cause difficulty taking a deep breath. For instance, if you breathe in chemicals in your job, they can damage your lungs to the point that you have trouble breathing. Likewise, smoking damages your lung tissues, and if you've been smoking for a long time, you will find it more and more difficult to take deep breaths. Smoking and other chemicals cause emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes asthma and chronic bronchitis.


The treatment for difficulty taking deep breaths depends on the cause. If you are having chest pain with your trouble breathing, then you need to get to a hospital and take some supplemental oxygen. Even if you are only having minor chest pain and trouble breathing, supplemental oxygen is likely to help you feel better and allow you to catch your breath.

If you have asthma, you need to have this condition diagnosed by your doctor. You doctor will give you inhalers to take when you feel out of breath that will open your airways and help you take deep breaths. Inhalers can help with either type of asthma: general or exercise induced. You will have to have an inhaler on hand when you exercise if you have exercise induced asthma to relieve shortness of breath. Do not use someone else's inhaler if you are having trouble breathing, because many reasons can cause you to have difficulty taking a deep breath.

One of the most effective things you can do to help your breathing is to reduce your exposure to inhaled chemicals. For instance, if you are a smoker, stop smoking to restore your lungs to their former capacity. If you work at a job that requires you to inhale noxious fumes, you should see about getting a different job or asking your employer for a shield to breathe through.

Panic attacks can easily be treated at home, but you must be sure that you are having a panic attack and not dealing with one of the above causes. If you find you are having trouble taking a deep breath and you feel stressed, try closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing. Take a breath as deep and slow as you can and focus on filling your lungs. In addition, try to cut down on the stress in your life or ask your doctor for medications to help your anxiety. With a little focused attention, you should be able to calm your nerves and restore your breathing to normal.