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12 Possible Medical Causes of Hyperventilation


Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, is a condition in which a person breathes deeper and more rapidly than normal. As a result of exhaling more than they inhale, the blood’s carbon dioxide levels become low, which constricts the arteries that carry blood to the brain.

This can cause a variety of symptoms from dizziness and lightheadedness, to chest pain, numbness, and confusion. Hyperventilation is a rare occurrence for most, and when it does happen it’s usually a response to fear, phobias, or emotional states like anger. In some cases, however, it may be indicative of a more serious health condition. The following are 12 possible medical causes of hyperventilation.

1. Anxiety

Possibly the most common cause of hyperventilation is anxiety. The Calm Clinic points out, however, that “…hyperventilation is to blame for dozens of the worst symptoms of anxiety,” which is why many refer to it as its own disorder—known as ‘hyperventilation syndrome.’

Anxiety can cause hyperventilation to occur in a variety of ways. For example, when anxiety kicks in it causes the body to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which can lead to rapid breathing. Another way is that, by overthinking about your breathing, the source says, “…you tend to breathe far more than you need to, leading to hyperventilation.”

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