Perception of respiration

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Perception is the process of interpretation and recognition of the stimulants, which are subjected to the process of “sensation” within the scope of the sense organs and sensory system, and this process makes it possible to construe sensory inputs and to recognize them as a consistent whole. The process of perception includes the regulation of the stimulants, as well as interpreting them in the form of meaningful information. Sensation, however, is the term used for the experiences that are created as a result of the living creatures getting affected by internal or external stimulants.

In a study carried out at the University of Otago, the apprehensions that emerged during the pandemic era were found to have caused an apparent increase on anxiety disorders. Moreover, current studies report that the changing perception of respiration could lead to an increase in anxiety cases.

In an article published in the journal named Neuron, researchers specifically analyze the bodily symptoms of anxiety, which can be recurrent and which possibly start a negative spiral of emotions to create even more anxiety (heart rate, sweaty palms, rapid breathing, etc.).

In this study, the participants (thirty healthy individuals with low anxiety, and thirty individuals with medium level of anxiety) took part in one questionnaire and carried out two respiration tasks during a brain imaging session in order to evaluate the changes in the blood oxygenation and flow.

Dr. Olivia Harrison, who conducted the study, reports that those with a higher level of anxiety were found to have changed their perception of respiration compared to the individuals with a lower level of anxiety, and that they became actually less sensitive towards the changes in their respiration, while having a reduced insight in regards to how well they could perceive their bodies, and that their brain activities changed while predicting what would happen to their respiration in the future.

We may believe that we are in good “concordance” with our body; nevertheless, what we see is the fact that anxiety can actually reduce our ability to notice the changes in our respiration. This is really an important matter, because if we fail to notice when we breathe faster due to anxiety, then it would be easier for us to have other symptoms like dizziness, and if we don’t notice what’s happening in our body, these symptoms can make us feel even worse or make us anxious.

Solely based on this information, considering the fact that the communication between the brain and body can start deteriorating, it shows that it is possible to provide help through a true bond that we establish with our body (we are all living creatures that exist in this world with our bodies). This means that it will be possible to help people break that negative cycle of anxiety and to make contributions to improve their treatments by means of methods, which can be used in order for people to better perceive their bodies and to minimize the symptoms causing more anxiety.

We already know that the eastern medicine has been using respiration as an instrument to improve mental health for centuries, and that things like yoga, meditation, and exercise help us calm down and alleviate our anxieties.

– Harrison, O. K., Nanz, L., Marino, S., Lüchinger, R., Hennel, F., Hess, A. J., … & Stephan, K. E. (2021). Interoception of breathing and its relationship with anxiety. bioRxiv.