The Asthma Center

Stress-Related Asthma

Although asthma is not a psychological illness, your asthmatic symptoms may flare due to anxiety, stress reactions and other psychological problems. In these cases, you may benefit from stress reduction techniques or psychological or psychiatric counseling as well as asthma medications. Stress or psychological problems as an important trigger in asthma are seen in far less than 1% of asthmatic individuals.

Asthma and Psychology

Severe asthma can impact your work, school, families and leisure activities to such an extent that it causes a significant change in quality of life. Asthmatic symptoms, when severe or limiting, can cause both physical as well as psychological discomfort. If you have asthma, you may live in constant fear of an asthmatic attack or become overly restrictive or limited in the choices of home life, work, travel, or other activities.

Stress from fear, anger, work, or home related problems can have a significant impact on worsening asthmatic symptoms. In some rare situations, psychological illness can somehow be an underlying cause or trigger for recurrent asthmatic symptoms. If you are affected by this condition, you likely are unaware of the psychological problem causing your symptoms.

When psychological illness plays a central role in your asthma-like symptoms, you may not do very well with traditional asthma treatments. The best physicians may not be able to help you in this situation. Even if you are cooperative in your treatment program, you may have an ever increasing need for medications and become frequently sick without any clear trigger.

This form of asthma appears to be primarily a psychosomatic disease. The best way to assist you is to help you find a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist who can effectively treat the underlying stress or psychological problem.

Asthma, Psychology, and Children

In childhood, poorly controlled asthma may limit a child's ability to participate in sports, go to overnight camps, or even visit a friend's house. As a result, some children may develop a poor self image and feel that they are less than equal to their peers. Therefore, it is imperative to optimally treat children early, soon after their onset of asthma, and encourage them to participate in sports using supplemental asthma treatment. Treatment with medications prior to visiting a friend's house, educating the friend's parent(s) regarding asthma issues related to your child's visit and having emergency back up medications with him/her will allow the child to experience a more normal childhood.

Finally, family problems may play a significant role in a child's asthma. At times, a child caught up in a dysfunctional family may subconsciously call the family together through the drama of an acute asthmatic attack.