How Your Anxiety Could Aggravate This Other Common Health Issue

Photographed by Eva K. Salvi.
As common as chronic anxiety is, it's still extremely unpleasant. And, as if it wasn't bad enough on its own, new research suggests anxiety could make other health issues worse, too. For the study, presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, researchers recruited 101 participants who had exercise-induced asthma. The researchers first measured their participants' levels of anxiety sensitivity, which is essentially an anxiety about being anxious. Then, participants had to breathe through one of those tiny coffee-stirrer straws in order to mimic the symptoms of their asthma. (Don't worry; everyone had their inhalers with them the whole time and could stop whenever they wanted.) As one might expect, those who had higher anxiety sensitivity scores also had more anxiety during the breathing task. But interestingly, they reported more severe asthma symptoms and lessened lung functioning during the task, too. So, the researchers conclude that anxiety sensitivity could aggravate asthma in people who have both health issues. This is especially important because there's a long history of research showing that people with asthma are more likely to also have anxiety (and vice versa). And the results from this study suggest that addressing the anxiety may also help ease the asthma — or at least make breathing problems easier to treat. Being able to combat respiratory issues later may start with learning how to take deep, relaxing breaths now.

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