Our respiratory system is the organs and tissues that help us take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and comprises the airways, the lungs and linked blood vessels, and the muscles that enable breathing.
The bronchioles, in turn, are the passageways through which the air passes through the nose and mouth, to the air sacs of the lungs.
As part of the body’s Stress Engine response, the epinephrine triggers changes to both our rate and depth of breathing.
This process involves the bronchioles in our lungs becoming dilated (expanding), and our breathing becoming faster, in order to maximize oxygen intake, and so support the expected higher physical activity levels.
Beyond this, however, the stress response cycle, can exacerbate many chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema, causing breathlessness and wheezing.
That is why many people with these diseases find it hard to breathe when they face anger or fear and sometimes, even healthy people face breathing difficulties, as a result of the sudden constriction of bronchial muscles as a response to stress.
The problem occurs not with the immediate stress and the initial dilation (expansion) of the bronchioles, but rather, it is when the autonomic nervous system kicks in again following the initial stress. Our autonomic nervous system acts to decrease the sympathetic stress response (Stress Engine) by releasing the relaxation hormone/neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which acts to slow the heart rate and also constrict the bronchioles, in an attempt to slow down our breathing and return the body to normal.
It is this sudden constriction of the muscles in the walls of the bronchioles, which narrows the airways, and causes difficulty in breathing, which can vary from very mild to severe, depending on the underlying respiratory disease that exists.