What happens when the body needs more oxygen?

Our body responds to an increase in physical activity by increasing the rate of the breathing cycle - for example when you run for a bus. Our muscles need oxygen to work efficiently. Our internal organs need oxygen at different rates during the day. Even our brain needs a good supply of oxygen to function well.

Our body sometimes increases the breathing cycle if we are stressed or have a psychological trigger for example when we are waiting to go for an important appointment or if we are nervous or frightened. This trigger is known as the fight or flight response. You will learn more about this and how it affects breathing in the RESPe section:

For people living with a lung condition, the breathing cycle can be quite different. Breathing can require much more physical effort and planning of activity during the day. Fatigue is common. It can be difficult to know when physical and psychological triggers or the underlying lung condition are affecting breathing. Some people have panic attacks which can occur because of physical or psychological triggers.

Another example is that some people get in to the habits of over breathing or just using the upper part of the chest rather than the diaphragm. This can also be known as hyperventilation or dysfunctional breathing. This can happen for a number of reasons and present in a number of ways. Collectively these are known as Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD).

The good news is that there are physical and psychological treatments and techniques which can change, improve and modify the persons breathing. Let’s look at breathing pattern disorders in more depth in the following section.