Ask the Doctors: Breathing into a paper bag can calm anxiety attack – Lompoc Record

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Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record

Dear Doctor: I was having a panic attack and thought I might faint. My dad had me breathe into a paper bag, and it helped me calm down. I've only ever seen that on TV. Why did it work? Was it because I ended up doing deep breathing?

Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record

Dear Reader: It's interesting how, when a TV character hyperventilates, someone just happens to have a brown paper lunch bag for them to breathe into. And while the rhythmic nature of that breathing may contribute to calming down the person, the actual theory behind the maneuver is rooted in biochemistry. To understand why, let's start with the anxiety attack. Often referred to as a panic attack, it's the sudden onset of symptoms associated with fear, despite the absence of genuine peril. Among the many unpleasant and unsettling symptoms of a panic attack is the rapid and uncontrolled breathing known as hyperventilating. When this happens, it quickly causes the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood to get out of balance.

Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record

Unlike in controlled breathing, which allows the respiratory system to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide in optimal amounts, hyperventilation causes a surplus of oxygen and a deficit of carbon dioxide, also known as C02. Since C02 is a metabolic byproduct — sometimes it's referred to as a waste product — that may not seem like a bad thing. Too much C02 dissolved in the blood can cause symptoms that range from dizziness, drowsiness, headache, confusion and shortness of breath to heart arrhythmias, seizures and loss of consciousness. However, too little C02 is also a problem.

Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record
Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record
Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record
Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record
Ask The Doctors: Breathing Into A Paper Bag Can Calm Anxiety Attack - Lompoc Record