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Feel Like I Can’t Breathe During Times of Stress

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My spouses ex is consistently in our life trying to cause extreme stress in our life by threatening to withhold my step-child as a way to torment us, by threatening to cause us financial hardship, by overall just being overly hostile in any possible way. In the last few months we’ve been in and out of court, there has been domestic violence in the other household which has caused us to worry about the safety of our child, and various other torments. I typically donate blood, and have not been able to because for some unknown reason my pulse which is normally in the 80’s has rarely gone under 130 in this time. I honestly feel like I am going to die eventually from the extreme stress in my life, sometimes I can’t move, I know I should but I just can’t. I constantly feel like in my chest something is just constricting me to the point of not being able to breathe consistently. I first thought that maybe I was having a panic attack, but panic attacks are supposed to stop at some point from what I read. I’m at a point where I don’t know what is going on with myself, I’m honestly terrified that my spouse’s ex will drive me to a point of having a heart attack or something equally horrible. I don’t know what this is though, I don’t know how to fix it, and I don’t know if this is just a normal thing people go through if they are under extreme stress.

Feel Like I Can’t Breathe During Times of Stress

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A: I’m sorry that you are all going through this difficult time and hope that things get better soon. We all respond to stress differently. Some react with more physical responses, others experience extreme emotional changes, while some folks demonstrate both. It is crucial for our overall health to develop insight into our own tendencies and to then have a plan to combat the stress reactions. Since you are having some concerning physical symptoms with an increased pulse rate, chest constriction and breathing difficulties, I would suggest that you see your doctor for a complete physical. Hopefully there is nothing seriously wrong, but it’s a good idea to be monitored during this time of high stress.

Obviously, seeing a therapist during this time would be a good idea as well. Therapy would provide a safe and neutral place to vent about the situation, but it’s also a way to increase your coping skills and learn new ways to relax while managing the ongoing situation. I would also suggest that you get a book or take a class on meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or some other form of mindfulness based practice. There’s a lot of research coming out showing the benefits of these types of techniques on our overall mental health and our ability to manage stress. Let’s face it, we live in challenging times and we will periodically go through times that push us to our brink. However, we can equip ourselves with self-knowledge and methods of coping that serve to keep us on track. We can’t always change our situation but we can change how we react to it. Good luck and I hope there is a peaceful resolution soon.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

Feel Like I Can’t Breathe During Times of Stress

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). Feel Like I Can’t Breathe During Times of Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 6 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.