Millions of people suffer from the effects of hypocapnia, without even realizing it, when they go to work, face life challenges, and communicate with others. These effects can be dramatic, disturbing, disruptive, even terrifying as in the case of panic attack. They are usually misinterpreted by everyone, including the person overbreathing, friends, family, colleagues, counselors, and healthcare practitioners. The effects are usually identified as “unexplained,” or they are attributed to other “causes,” usually ones consistent with practitioner bias and professional background.
on surveys regarding ambulance calls, 60 percent of the ambulance runs in the
RESPIRATION: shortness of breath, breathlessness, feelings of suffocation
CHEST: tightness, pressure, and pain
SKIN: sweaty, cold, tingling, and numbness
HEART: palpitations, irregularities, increased rate
EMOTION: anxiety, anger, panic, apprehension, worry, outburst, crying
STRESS: tenseness, fatigue, weakness, headache, hypertension
HEAD: dizziness, loss of balance, fainting, black-out, confusion, disorientation
SENSES: blurred vision, dry mouth, sound seems distant, reduced pain threshold
SELF: traumatic memories, low self-esteem, personality shifts
COGNITION: attention deficit, loss of focus, inability to think, poor memory
CONSCIOUSNESS: feelings of “other worldliness,” sense of disconnectedness, hallucinations
PERIPHERAL CHANGES: trembling, twitching, and shivering
MUSCLES: tetany, spasm, weakness, fatigue, and pain
ABDOMEN: nausea, cramping, and bloatedness.
Acute effects of hypocapnia, depending on the person, can trigger symptoms of all kinds, including virtually all of the symptoms identified with the “effects of stress.” An example is increased likelihood of bronchial constriction, increased airway resistance, and reduced lung compliance, effects which made lead to labored breathing (difficulty in “getting your breath”) and contribute substantially, both physically and psychologically (e.g., fear of not getting your breath), to the likelihood of a breathing-struggle episode, even an asthma attack. Other examples include muscle constriction in (1) the gut, leading to increased likelihood of spasm, pain, and nausea, and (2) the vascular system, leading to dramatically reduced oxygen and glucose supply to the brain, coronary constriction in the heart, vascular resistance, and possible vasospasm and high blood pressure.
What are the physiological principles that account for these effects? Click here to learn more: physiological changes.
What are some of the immediate symptoms of hypocapnia? Click here to learn more: symptoms and deficits.
Behavioral Physiology Institute,