When you breathe, you breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Excessive breathing creates low levels of carbon dioxide in your blood. This causes many of the symptoms of hyperventilation.
Feeling very anxious or having a panic attack are the usual reasons that you may hyperventilate. However, rapid breathing may be a symptom of a disease, such as:
- Heart or lung disorder
Your doctor or nurse will determine the cause of your hyperventilation. Rapid breathing may be a medical emergency -- unless you have have had this before and have been reassured by your health care provider that it can be self treated.
Often, panic and hyperventilation become a vicious cycle. Panic leads to rapid breathing, and breathing rapidly can make you feel panicked.
If you frequently overbreathe, you may have hyperventilation syndrome that is triggered by emotions of stress, anxiety, depression, or anger. Occasional hyperventilation from panic is generally related to a specific fear or phobia, such as a fear of heights, dying, or closed-in spaces (claustrophobia).
If you have hyperventilation syndrome, you might not be aware you are breathing fast. However, you will be aware of having many of the other symptoms, including:
- Chest pain
- Dry mouth
- Muscle spasms in hands and feet
- Numbness and tingling in the arms or around the mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disturbances