If you suffer from asthma, you probably know there're a host of items in your home and in the environment that can trigger your condition. But did you know that your emotions can also play a key role in bringing on your symptoms?

The Link between Asthma and Emotions

The fact is that feeling strong emotions alone isn't enough to cause you to develop an asthma condition. But if you already have asthma, then experiencing a range of emotions can certainly cause it to flare. Here's why. When you're grappling with any type of emotion, your breathing can change and become quicker and shallower. If your airways are particularly sensitive, such changes can be enough to set an asthma attack into gear. Further, the effort involved in laughing, crying, yelling and even coughing and sneezing can also affect your breathing and cause your symptoms to kick in.

Research Findings

To better understand the asthma and emotions relationship, researchers from Stanford University studied the emotional and physical response to stimuli among asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients and some important differences were found between the two groups. These results, which were published in the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine in 2000, revealed that participants who have asthma seem to have reduced lung function when they experience changes in their moods. Further, the changes occurring with negative moods seem to be more severe than with positive moods, although the variances were worth noting on both ends. Yet these same responses didn't seem to exist among non-asthmatics.

To come to these conclusions, researchers measured each participant's emotional and physical reactions to stimuli, including their pulmonary function. Some of the information was gathered in a laboratory setting, while some of it was also self-reported by participants through personal journals and at-home lung function tests.

The Connection Spans Generations

Further, in another study that was released at the American Psychosomatic Meeting in the spring of 2007, researchers identified a connection between a parent's mood and how her child's immune system responded. It seems that children with asthma who live with a parent who's coping with stress or depression symptoms are also more likely to have their anxiety and depression to deal with. This fact affects the immune system response in a way that can be indicative of asthma symptoms.

Play it Safe

So what does this mean for you? First, researchers stress that the asthma and emotions connection doesn't mean you have to go into denial and repress your feelings. It's actually healthy to release your emotions, but if you have asthma, it could mean that you need to do some advance work so that this trigger won't make you cough and wheeze.

To this end, the experts say that the best thing you can do for yourself is to follow your asthma management plan so you can keep your condition well controlled. You should also carry your fast-acting relief inhaler with you at all times, just in case you get into any danger.  Further, if you find yourself dealing with ongoing depression, extreme stress or signs of a mood disorder, you should talk to your doctor to get help right away. The good news is that with a little planning, you can weather your strongest emotions with few ill effects.


National Jewish Health


American Psychosomatic Society