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Shortness of breath and the feeling that your heart is going to stop may not always be associated with a heart condition. The following disorders may also make you feel like you might choke, or worse.


Anxiety is feelings of anxiousness, uneasiness or nervousness that occur because of disturbances or changes in everyday routine. These feelings of sudden panic and fear may be associated with work, academic tests, making critical decisions, and other stressful activities.

Typical symptoms include sweating, palpitations (irregular or rapid heartbeats), chest pain, and a feeling of breathlessness or choking. The latter might make a person feel as if they were having a heart attack. Typical treatment includes certain drugs and in some cases, psychotherapy to assess the psychological reasons behind these feelings.

Binge Eating Or Drinking

Binging refers to the uncontrollable desire to overeat or over-drink regularly. This results in consuming large amounts of food over short periods, sometimes even without any hunger.

Binge eating or drinking is often a quick process, and the individual tends to "gulp" excessive amounts of food rapidly. This causes abdominal bloating, which compresses the diaphragm and does not allow it to relax adequately. This results in uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as feeling choked and breathless. Treatment includes individual and nutritional counseling, therapy, and medication.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD occurs due to backflow of the acids or contents of the stomach into the esophagus. This causes sensations of burning in the chest (heartburn), which may extend to the throat as well.

Common symptoms include chest pain and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Patients with a history of peptic ulcer disease or gastrointestinal disease commonly experience feelings of choking and breathlessness as well. Treatment involves lifestyle changes and medications to manage the uncomfortable symptoms. If they get worse, stronger medication and surgery may be required.


The normal pH of blood is around 7.4. Maintaining this pH is essential for efficient metabolic reactions. Due to certain kidney and lung complications, the body cannot maintain this pH balance. If too much acid accumulates in the blood, the pH falls, resulting in acidosis.

There are two kinds of acidosis, metabolic and respiratory, and their symptoms vary. However, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeats and shallow breathing are common to both. Treatment includes administering sodium carbonate via IV to raise the pH, dietary changes and hydration.

Obesity And A Sedentary Lifestyle

Obesity, or a sedentary lifestyle, involves excessive accumulation of body fat due to overeating or lack of physical activity respectively. This predisposes an individual to heart diseases and related complications, which cause symptoms related to breathlessness and irregular/difficulty in breathing. Behavioral and dietary modifications, regular exercise, medication and weight-loss surgery are the treatments available.

Sudden shortness of breath or feeling of breathlessness very frequently is not a good sign. It tends to decrease the quality of life. People suffering from this disorder are more likely to get anxious and are unable to perform their daily chores efficiently.

It is a good idea to discuss the problem with your doctor so that he can run some tests to make sure that your body mechanisms are working properly.

Frequent bouts of anxiety or breathlessness should not be ignored as they may result in pulmonary aspiration.

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