I have asthma, which makes it hard for me to breath when I’m upset. My husband says is psychosomatic and that I could control my asthma attacks if I wanted to. Is he right?
A. An asthma attach occurs when the air tubes of the lungs become constricted , which can affect breathing. The symptoms of asthma are very real-they are not “in your head,” nor are they under your control. There’s no question, however, that emotional excitement-either extreme happiness or extreme upset-can produce an asthma attach in some individuals. In fact, half of the asthma patience experience a sense of constriction in the chest when they’re excited. Why? When you’re upset, the muscles around some parts of the breathing tube can squeeze down and release histamines into the respiratory tree, which can cause swelling, inflammation, and further obstructions of the airways. This is followed by a sense of shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, coughing and wheezing. The reason for this reaction is very complex and not fully understood. It is likely, however, that strong emotions may stimulate the autonomic nervous system that controls such automatic functions as the beating of our hearts, blood pressure, and breathing.
Taking your medications before you expect an upsetting time is a good idea: Use them if you are anticipating a confrontation with your husband about something, for example. Letting asthma stack the cards against a complete and fair discussion takes an unfair advantage and, in the long run, may postpone a real solution to your problems.
Dr. Marianne Legato, Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University is an internationally known academic physician, author, lecturer, and specialist in gender-specific medicine. She is founding member of the International Society for Gender Medicine and also the founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and its next iteration, The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. These enterprises are the first collaborations between academic medicine and the private sector focused solely on gender-specific medicine: the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and of how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender and sex. Her ground breaking textbook on Gender-and Sex Specific Medicine has been published in 2017 in the 3rd edition.
She has published extensively on Gender and Sex Specific Medicine, both scientifically and for the lay public. She is also the founding editor of the journal Gender Medicine, and the Journal Gender and Genome, published for the scientific community. In 1992, Dr. Legato won the American Heart Association’s Blakeslee Award for the best book written for the lay public on cardiovascular disease. She is a practicing internist in New York City and has been listed each year in New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” since the feature’s inception in 1993.