This article tackles the true and false beliefs in breathing under normal conditions and under anxiety
RESPIRATION: TRUE & FALSE
- The air we breathe is not pure oxygen true: Under normal conditions, the air we breathe is 21% oxygen (O2), 78% nitrogen (N), 0.04 % carbon dioxide (C02) and other gazes such as hydrogen.
- Respiration is induced by the need for oxygen false: Under normal circumstances, the oxygen supply is always ample in nature, and therefore the body’s need for it is slight. Carbon dioxide is what significantly drives respiration.
- The body needs oxygen to move false: The process of muscular contraction in vertebrates (includes humans and animals with backbones) is actually anaerobic, which means it does not require oxygen.
- Carbon dioxide (Co2) is bad for you false: Co2 is in fact more fundamental to life than oxygen. It helps maintain blood acidity, controls respiration, and influences the heart and blood circulation.
- Carbon dioxide (Co2) and Oxygen (O2) are transported separately in the body true: O2 is carried by hemoglobin and Co2 is combined with alkali in the plasma. As a result a blood sample can have as much O2 as Co2 or as little Co2 as O2.
- Co2 and O2 work together in synchronicity true: Co2 improves the oxygenation of the blood and tissues. O2 is necessary for the conversion of lactic acid into carbon dioxide.
- Respiration ceases where there is too much carbon dioxide in the blood true (partially): If there is enough or too much Co2 in the blood, we automatically cease to breathe (or breathe slowly) if at the same time the amount of Co2 available is deficient.
- Inspiration is automatically followed by expiration true: According to the “Hering and Breuer” reflex, each expiratory deflation of the lungs stimulates the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles to induce inspiration. Inspiration and expiration are reflexes controlled exclusively by the nervous system (we cannot control that). A good illustration of this reflex is our inability to stop ourselves from inhaling and exhaling after holding our breath.
- Co2 drives respiration adjustments true: Whenever blood acidity is to high or too low (normal blood acidity or pH is between 7.35 and 7.45), respiratory adjustments take place. If it is too low, there is an increase in respiration; if it is too high, there is a decrease in respiration
- The volume of breathing depends on the rate of respiration false: The volume of breathing necessary during respiratory adjustments(increased breathing or decreased breathing) depends on the depth of breathing not the rate.
- Breathing is regulated by Oxygen false: Breathing is regulated by the carbon dioxide (or carbonic acid) produced in the muscles and organs and carried by the blood to the respiratory center in the brain. Co2 is what stimulates this center.
- Excessive breathing helps restore O2 levels false: Excessive breathing is induced by O2 deficiency in the blood exerting an abnormal and excessive action on the respiratory center. Excessive breathing is then triggered which in turn depletes the body’s store of Co2
- From a physiological point of view, panic attacks in anxiety occur because of a lack of oxygen false: A healthy person with anxiety experiences a panic attack because of low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.
- Anxiety causes irregular breathing true: When anxious, we tend to have irregular breathing patterns, the degree of which depends on the level of anxiety. Typically, we tend to overbreathe or hyperventilate, which means that we may take between 18 to 20 breaths per minute (normal breathing rate is 12 to 18 breaths/min), sometimes rising to 30 breaths per minute, which may results in a panic attack.
- Overbreathing or hyperventilation uses the chest muscles true: When hyperventilation, we use the chest muscles, often putting a strain on it, which may lead to chest pain. Chest breathing is erratic, shallow, and uncomfortable, because you only get partial ventilation in the lungs. Exhaling in this case is often forced and noisy, and sighing and yawning are frequent.
- Hyperventilation is inefficient ventilation true: Ventilation refers to the gas exchange that takes place in the lungs where oxygen is added to the blood by bonding to hemoglobin and transported to other organs in the body. However, in order for the oxygen to be released from the hemoglobin, carbon dioxide must be present. During hyperventilation, more oxygen is taken in than the body needs and too much carbon dioxide is being removed from the body, as a result not enough oxygen is actually delivered to the organs and the low levels of carbon dioxide further trigger increased respiration.
- Diaphragmatic breathing is natural breathing true: Diaphragmatic breathing is how babies breathe, which means it is the natural way of breathing.
- Breathing in a bag brings relief during a panic attack true: If you are having a panic attack, get a large paper bag (don’t use plastic), scrunch the top of it, and breathe fully into it. Re-breathe the air in the bag in and out several times until you feel better. This will bring the carbon dioxide levels back up. Then, try to lean forward over a table with your elbows on your knees. Yasmina Rebani Lee
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