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How Does Shallow Breathing Affect Our Entire Bodies?

Amber Murphy

We breathe constantly throughout our days with minimal attention. However, there’s a big difference between shallow breathing and deep breathing that can help you during times of distress. Often, in moments of anxiety, we breathe from our chest. Chest breathing is typically shallow breathing. However, when our bodies are tense with anxiety, we often take a deep breath from our stomachs. And slowly but surely we see our rapid breathing slow down. In this article, we’ll explore the downsides to shallow breathing to help remind you to take deep breaths when you can to help you improve your breathing pattern.

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What is shallow breathing?

Shallow breathing is often characterized by fast breathing that results in insufficient oxygen intake. It’s a form of breathing that doesn’t usually involve the diaphragm, with the breathing being too rapid to provide adequate time for the air to enter the lungs deeper. Shallow breathing tricks the body into thinking you are constantly stressed. The term “chest breathing” refers to the fact that one breathes with their chest rather than allowing air to go through the lungs to the air sacs. This renders the lungs incapable of extracting oxygen from the air. As a result, you can feel out of breath due to excessive carbon dioxide depletion, which reduces the body’s breathing power and oxygen absorption.

Chest breathing has been linked to various psychiatric problems, including anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and stress disorders. Many individuals have this condition because of a complete lack of understanding and knowledge. However, unlike newborns, who naturally know how to breathe, most humans have lost the capacity to breathe properly due to layers of unhealthy habits that we continue to engage in through our everyday activities. Your life can seem stress-free, but consistently maintaining shallow breathing may have long-term health consequences. Chronic depression and other stress-related conditions are likely to persist if this type of breathing becomes a routine for you.

shallow breathing

How does shallow breathing affect the body?

Shallow breathing affects the body by causing it to receive inadequate air supply, especially the oxygen that reaches your lungs. Suppose this becomes a routine, and oxygen consumption decreases, which may lead to a wide range of serious problems. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of how chest breathing can damage their bodies.

What are the signs of shortness of breath?

When anyone experiences chest breathing, they can experience a variety of symptoms. These signs combine to make one feel like they can’t catch their breath. So, if you’ve been doing more rapid breathing than usual, these may be a few of the signs that your shallow breathing is causing you to become short of breath.

  • Quicker breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Tightness in the chest
  • A lack of oxygen or a sense of suffocation
  • Muscle pain
  • Having the sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Palpitations of the abdomen (feels like a more robust, faster heartbeat)
  • Feeling sick, dizzy, or unsteady
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain agitation
  • Irritability, or apprehension

What causes shallow breathing?

An underlying condition or problem causes shortness of breath. Several factors may contribute to shallow breathing throughout the day. Some triggers may be beyond your grasp, while you may manage others with a few simple changes in your routines. For example, let’s look at specific causes that can cause shortness of breath.

1. Respiratory chronic disease

Specific chronic respiratory problems are at the top of the causes of shallow breathing. Asthma, a disorder that is characterized by chronic inflammation of the lungs, is a frequent cause of chest breathing. The breathing symptoms can intensify at night after a day of exercise, regardless of the time spent exercising. Mouth breathing can also help to relieve asthma symptoms, especially if the air is dry and cold. When allergens or pollutants are present in the air, one can experience shortness of breath.

2. Stress and suffering

Stress and pain will also have a significant impact on how you breathe. For example, pain induces all your muscles to tighten, affecting your breathing habits. But on the other hand, stress can make you feel like you’re not breathing. When one feels like they aren’t breathing, they prefer to take shorter and shorter breaths. Finally, one becomes exhausted, which stimulates chest breathing, further stresses the body, and the vicious circle continues.

3. Infections

Infections caused by germs in your body can make breathing difficult. Infections that damage the lungs, such as pneumonia, may affect anybody, particularly those with weakened immune systems. When time progresses, one’s breaths get more rapid and shorter. When infections worsen, the lungs may get filled up with fluid, making it difficult to take deep breaths. Antibiotics can sometimes help with the issue, but in some cases, the infections can be lethal. Lung infections can often cause shallow breathing, specifically.

4. Choking

When you choke, the airway gets closed, which can be either partially or fully. When this happens, people try to take shorter and shorter breaths, which causes their breathing to become tense and shallow due to the blockage.

5. Anxiety attack

Anxiety symptoms can trigger the tightening of the muscles that aid in breathing. Most of the time, these attacks are synonymous with mental illness, and most people are unaware of the damaging impact they may have on our bodies. These attacks result from panic or anxiety, causing faster than normal breathing or shallow breathing. One feels as though they are not breathing well and panics, causing their breathing to become rapid shallow breathing.

6. Anaemia a form of blood disorder.

This is a pulmonary embolism, simply a blood clot in the lungs. This happens when the body cannot have enough iron, and it can cause shortness of breath, chest pains, frequent rapid coughing, and erratic heartbeats.

7. Heart disorder

Several diseases impair the heart and its ability to pump blood into the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath. These disorders mainly include heart valve diseases and a variety of others. Those with heart disorders are more likely to have shallow breathing.

8. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

A pulmonary disease-COPD is one of the triggers of shallow breathing. It entails inflammation of the airways (chronic bronchitis) and deterioration and injury to the lungs’ air sacs (chronic emphysema). Regardless of age, the disorder can affect both men and women.

All these things are typical triggers of shallow breathing, and you can imagine how they would affect you if you faced them all at once. This is why you should concentrate on taking longer breaths to avoid the health risks associated with shallow breathing.

anxiety disorder

How to use deep breathing to counteract shallow breathing

Training the body to breathe deeper, either automatically or by multiple deep breathing techniques, will help improve breathing consistency. Deep breathing allows people to effectively reduce their heart rate while improving blood pressure, lowering anxiety and stress levels, reducing muscle tension, and having other healthier outcomes.

Deep breathing allows one to breathe in oxygen, filling the lungs and expelling toxic carbon dioxide. Deeper breaths are vital because carbon dioxide is poisonous and should not be allowed to accumulate in our bodies.

Improved diaphragm ability

When one breathes appropriately, one can make proper use of their diaphragm. However, the right breathing aids in the maintenance of a safe and strong diaphragm. Unlike shallow breathing, which induce more minor diaphragm oscillations, deep breathing corrects all of these, making the diaphragm even stronger.

Deep breathing is a powerful mind and body relaxer, and when one tunes their bodies to it, you can assure them of a stress-free lifestyle.

deep breathing

What is the mechanism of deep breathing?

Deep breathing will only be effective if you listen to your mind and body. Try to be aware of how stress and anxiety affect your day-to-day life. For example, if you practice deep breathing exercises but still experience extremely heightened stress levels, it might be time to see a medical practitioner or a mental health specialist.

If you are having one of the frequent causes of shallow breathing, you can check with your healthcare provider immediately to stop jeopardizing your life.

How to Take More Deep Breaths

Deep breathing is something we tend to do a lot more during moments of exercise. Take for instance a runner. As you run outdoors, you need more oxygen than usual to maintain your workout. You might start huffing and puffing more than usual. But often, during these intensive active moments, we take deeper breaths, fueling our bodies with more oxygen while releasing carbon dioxide.

As we become more sedentary from working at home or in an office, taking time out for deep breathing will be essential. You could practice a guided meditation using the Declutter The Mind app where you’ll find countless meditations, such as body-scan meditation, meditation for anxiety, or even a loving-kindness meditation. No matter which meditation you try, you’ll be encouraged to take a deep breath from your stomach instead of your chest. When you practice breathing from your stomach daily, you’ll begin doing it more often when you sleep or as you go about your day.

Alternatively, you can work on being more mindful. Ever noticed that you always breathe deeply when you think about breathing? I bet you’ve taken a few deep breaths while reading this article because you’ve suddenly become more aware of your need for oxygen, so you’re giving your respiratory system just what it needs.


Shallow breathing will eventually harm the body’s general health and wellness. You should use as much deep breathing as much as possible to get the body and mind out of the heightened stress and anxiety levels. As a result, one’s ability to calm down increases, and the likelihood of chest breathing decreases.

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