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In January of last year I underwent my first panic attack. I have no idea what brought it on but I think it was from having a depressing New Year's "celebration". Anyway, ever since then, my breathing has been out of whack. I have been to the doctor's and have had a lot of tests run and everything seems to be within normal means minus slight heart enlargement that my doctor says is very normal within a lot of people. Ejection fraction was at a healthy 60%, my valves were working fine and my EKG/blood tests that check for heart function all came back perfect. Basically he said I had nothing to worry about and my breathing problems were caused by anxiety. Not satisfied, I had a lung CT scan that came back normal, too.

After these tests, my breathing seemed to have gotten better, but I still have daily episodes where I feel like I can't get a deep breath. I sleep fine and when I'm out with friends, at a concert or watching a movie at the movie theater, I don't notice it until my mind focuses on my breathing and then I feel air hunger and try to take deep breaths. Every day I'm about 99% aware of my breathing. With the majority of people, breathing is involuntary, but with me, it seems like it's voluntary and I can rarely take my mind off of it. When I think about it, I get this air hunger sensation and start to hyperventilate, which in turn gives me panic attacks to the point where I have to go outside and walk around just to calm myself down. I can still exercise like normal and don't get winded even though I feel like I can't breath when I'm sitting there thinking about it, so I know it's mental and not physical.

My doctor put me on Lexapro but that yielded too many sexual side effects that after a month, I stopped taking it. It didn't seem to be doing anything, though, and my doctor said it takes about two weeks to "kick in". I'm currently in a PhD program at Case Western Reserve University and even in my classes, when completely consumed in study, I don't notice this problem, until my mind shifts off of my work and onto my breathing, then all of a sudden the air hunger hits.

Really I'm at a loss anymore. All my organs are healthy and I have a 98% blood oxygen level. My blood pressure is constantly under 125/70 depending on the time of day and I have no stamina loss or energy loss. Unfortunately, I always feel like my heart is going to stop or something was missed at the doctor's office that's going to kill me. This is depressing my mother because where she sees such a bright future ahead of me, as I pursue my PhD degree, I make comments like, "I hope I graduate before I die." Needless to say, she's tired of my depressing remarks, as am I. There use to be a time where I looked forward to the future, and now I constantly think I'm going to die before I hit forty.

I was diagnosed with "slight" obsessive-compulsive behavior last year as well as "breathing awareness" and anxiety/panic attacks. I am also a known hypochondriac. I refuse to take medications because of the chance of weight gain. I watch my weight extensively and keep myself fit. Gaining weight would simply depress me to an uncontrollable point and I'm not willing to risk the chance, especially when I hear of people gaining as much as 40lbs in a three month period. I know my breathing isn't as bad as some people with these problems, but it's still quite irritating. With my PhD program and my job riding my back, thinking about my breathing every day has become a real hindrance. Any help/feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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