What Dr. Luke has to say about Shortness of Breath and Panic Attacks

Xiang Quan Sheng was a 33 year old young man working in a large southern city in China. He had graduated from college 10 years before and had done well in his current job but the work had been hard and the hours of work had been long. He was married and had a 6 year old daughter. Marriage had been good but it also had its challenges and after 8 years of marriage and a lot of hard work Xiang Quan Sheng was more stressed than ever about life. It seemed that the harder he worked the more likely he was to get stressed in both work and in his marriage. Though he had noticed a change in his wife he could not explain.

One day as he was going to work he felt very strange, then he got short of breath. At first he did not think anything about the shortness of breath but soon he noticed that he could hardly breathe. He wondered if he was going to die!  He thought to himself, ‘if things don’t change I will die.’  He looked around the bus expecting for everyone there to be looking at him but no one was. Several minutes later as he got off the bus he started to feel a little better. However, he was so fearful of what happened he was not sure what to do. Was he having a heart attack, what happened to him?

When he got home that night from work he told his wife what happened. Ordinarily he would not tell his wife much about what was going on in his life but this was so scary he told her. He thought next time he might die and he at least wanted his wife to be aware of what happened.

Xiang Quan Sheng’s wife suggested he go to the hospital tomorrow and she would go with him. That sounded like a good idea to Xiang Quan Sheng, but he wanted someone else to think his going was necessary and that he was not crazy or in need of a mental institution. That night he had the same attack though not as severe. He was all the more convinced that he should go to the hospital the next day.

The next day they saw the doctor who listened to his story, examined Xiang Quan Sheng and drew some blood tests.  The doctor asked Xiang Quan Sheng and his wife to return to the hospital in several days to talk about the results of the blood tests.  As they left Xiang Quan Sheng’s wife told him about something amazing that had happened in her life. She told her husband how through a person named Jesus Christ she had come to have a new found joy, peace and purpose in her life.  Since that time, which happened several months ago she had come to have a new found joy and purpose in being a wife, mother and co-worker. Her whole life had much more meaning.  Xiang Quan Sheng would generally have not been interested, but since he had seen a difference in his wife’s life and was having his own problems he was genuinely interested.

Xiang Quan Sheng’s wife told him how she had become more and more unhappy in most areas of life and as such knew something needed to change. Yet she did not how or what to do. During that time a friend of hers told her about this person called Jesus Christ.  They read in the Bible the following, ‘therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5.1, 2).’  She told Xiang Quan Sheng that we have this peace through believing in God.

We must believe that God sent his Son Jesus to earth to die for the sins of all mankind.  She went onto show him in the Bible the following as well. ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.6-8).’  She told Xiang Quan Sheng that he that it was important to see that God’s love was so great that he died for these sins of ours even when God did not have to. That is a great amount of love.

Xiang Quan Sheng’s wife told him that having the burden of her sin lifted from her heart and mind was a great relief. Her sins were forgiven and this gave her a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It was this peace with God and the resulting joy and purpose which encouraged her so much. Ordinarily Xiang Quan Sheng would not feel concerned about his wrongdoings as he did not think his life was so bad. However, these episodes of being short of breath really got his attention.  Plus he wondered if the doctor would tell him he was too stressed. He knew he was under more stress as he was smoking more and drinking more alcohol than normal.  Yet, he did not think that his stress was so great to cause all that was going on now.  Regardless, Xiang Quan Sheng was interested in what his wife had to say and thought about what she said. He even began to ask her more questions and even started reading a little bit the Bible she had.  He would ask her questions about different things but what was so amazing was how caring for people and their problems this Jesus person was.

Xiang Quan Sheng even read how Jesus cared for people who were stressed and even crazy. This really interested Xiang Quan Sheng. Jesus genuinely cared for people he was around and helped them a lot.

Several days later Xiang Quan Sheng returned to the doctor to discuss the results. The told him everything looked good and normal. Though encouraged by this he was nevertheless still quite afraid. What did he have, Xiang Quan Sheng asked the doctor?  The doctor told him he had what is called Panic Attacks.  This is of course a concern but under no conditions would a person die from these attacks. Rather they were from stress in a person’s life which is not dealt with. The doctor reviewed a few things Xiang Quan Sheng could do like exercise more, work on reducing stress in his life and having some hobbies which could divert his attention.  Xiang Quan Sheng for the moment felt better.

Several days later Xiang Quan Sheng was going to work when he had another panic attack. He thought this smothering feeling would kill him. He was scared to death.  From that moment on, his life seemed to be controlled by his fear!  Anticipation of the spells, and efforts to avoid them, dominated his life.  Since the first spells occurred in the, his fears focused on the bus.  He began to avoid riding on the bus whenever possible.  This was no easy task since he lived a 45 minute walk from work.  In some ways, the worst part was that he had to tell his wife about the attacks.  He felt like a failure with his not being able to control things. 

Soon, Xiang Quan Sheng’s fears invaded other parts of life.  His next spell hit when he was in the grocery store, waiting in line.  He had a cart full of groceries but knew, without question, that he would have to leave the store.  He tried to go without anyone noticing.  People talk, you know.  He pulled his full cart around to an empty isle, made sure no one was looking, and left.  Amazingly, it seemed like the attack ended immediately after he got out of the store.  He wandered to herself what would have happened if he hadn't been able to leave as quickly as he did.

As the attacks spread to other places and times, these situations were branded in Xiang Quan Sheng’s mind as dangerous and he avoided them whenever possible.  His life began to shrink!  His attacks increased in frequency until he was having them four or five times each week.  Some were almost as intense as the first one.  Others were milder where he only experienced a few of the symptoms.  At times the shortness of breath seemed to be the most prominent.  At other times he was able to breathe fine but noticed that his heart was racing.  While the feeling of anxiety was always present during the attacks, even this varied in intensity from one attack to the other.

Xiang Quan Sheng returned to the doctor as his life was out of control. He did not know what to do.  The doctor explained the condition of Panic Disorder in more detail.

A person doesn’t have to have all these symptoms, but most have to be present for the episode to be a true panic attack.  Here are the symptoms the doctor said:

  1. A sudden feeling of nervousness, anxiety or impending doom.
  2. One’s heart racing or pounding.
  3. Shortness of breath or feeling that one can’t get a deep breath.
  4. Trembling and muscle tension.
  5. Dizziness or lightheadness.
  6. Increased perspiration.
  7. Hot or cold flashes.
  8. Nausea
  9. Tingling in the fingers or lips.
  10. A feeling of being out of control or a feeling of unreality.
  11. An urge to run or escape the situation.
  12. A fear that one is physically ill and going to die, or that one is going crazy or that others will see the symptoms and the person will be embarrassed.

These symptoms will usually appear rather suddenly, may last for 10 to 20 minutes and usually go away almost as suddenly.  After the symptoms subside, the person may feel very weak or fatigued.  Sometimes the person will feel very emotional.

The doctor went onto tell Xiang Quan Sheng and his wife that while panic attacks are very frightening, they are not dangerous themselves.  The symptoms are part of the body’s natural reaction to perceived danger and the person will not actually die or go insane from the attack.

Xiang Quan Sheng returned home with his wife and felt better that he had more understanding. However, something did not seem right. His wife cam to him and said to him ‘we really don’t need to life our lives in fear’   However.  when we believe in Jesus Christ and accept His teachings, we learn that the God of the universe will take care of us and that we can depend on Him.  We are taught that we are not to worry about the things of this life.  Jesus said:  “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6.25-27)”

During the coming days Xiang Quan Sheng became more interested in knowing about Jesus. His wife showed him more places in the Bible to read, He knew he needed something and Jesus Christ sounded more and more like the answer to his problems.  One day he asked his wife how he could accept Jesus Christ into his life to give him the peace, joy and purpose he knew his wife had and he did not.

Xiang Quan Sheng’s wife explained that first we must acknowledge that we are sinners. She showed him the following place in the Bible which says, ‘for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23).  All of us sin and this sin or wrongdoing towards God separates us from him. Another place they read said, ‘for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6.23).’  The result of this sin, is that we have eternal death which his separation from God. However, God gave us Jesus Christ as a payment for our sins as he died on the cross in our place so we could have eternal life with him forever.   She then showed him a final place which said, ‘if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved (Romans 10.9).’  This verse shows that if we are willing to confess out loud that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives because he died for us on the Cross for our sins and if we then believe in our hearts that God really raised Jesus Christ from the dead to show his victory over death then we will be saved.

Xiang Quan Sheng wanted this salvation. He prayed with his wife the following prayer.  ‘Dear God, I know I am a sinner and have done wrong before you. I know that I deserve to die because of my sins. However, I also believe that you died for my sins on the cross and three days later rose from the dead. I know place my trust in you.’

Xiang Quan Sheng then and in the coming days developed a peace, joy and purpose he had not known before. He began to see how Jesus Christ did not want him to have anger and bitterness which stressed him out. As a result he had less and less panic attacks until they were gone.

You too can have the same joy and purpose in life as Xiang Quan Sheng if you place your faith in Jesus Christ as he did.