What causes hyperventilation?

About the causes of the hyperventilation syndrome much is written, but still only little is clear. Non-psychological causes mentioned are: asthma, pain, pneumonia, anemia, chest- or heart complaints, fever, long speeches, high altitudes, diabetes, kidney- and liver disorders, increased progesterone levels, glandular fever, virus infections, etc. However, hyperventilation is usually the result of psychosocial stress in people’s lives and thus it is labeled as a psychosomatic disease.

What causes hyperventilation?

Hyperventilation – how does it start?

Before the first apparent attack often a long period of psychosocial stress, fear, anxiety or depression has occurred. Frustrations, emotions of anger, sadness, divorce, unemployment, forced moving, war, puberty are not sufficiently expressed. It is likely that other factors also contribute to the syndrome of chronic hyperventilation. For example the deep inhaling of cigarettes can be regarded as a form of hyperventilating, and it too can develop into the full chronic hyperventilation syndrome. Also the so called cafe├»sm (which is the excessive use of caffeine) can cause the very signs and symptoms of the syndrome. Caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola (theobromine), but also aspirin, nicotine and amphetamines can put – especially when overused – the respiratory center in the brain into an increased activity.

In all these situations the patient breathes more than actually needed. As a result, the CO2 buffers of the body are depleted. See hyperventilation

The psychological profile of people suffering from chronic hyperventilation

People that hyperventilate are usually people that are unsure of themselves, even though they manifest themselves as being strong and independent, they are afraid make a weak or childish impression, and often set (too) high standards for themselves. Usually they show excessive devotion for duty and perfectionism. Under conditions of psychosocial stress they keep continuing with ‘business as usual’, sometimes even until they drop. They have a continuing tendency to control their feelings and expressions of frustration. Loneliness can also lead to an increased risk of hyperventilation.

Read about the medical backgrounds of hyperventilation