Behavioral detective work is essential. It is important to learn about the history of learned breathing behavior along with the factors that may be sustaining it. If overbreathing is a reinforced operant behavior, simply teaching your client the “right” mechanics may be both irrelevant and misleading. Practicing “good” mechanics may mean nothing more than repetitive exercises that attest to your good breathing abilities. If learning history is overlooked, training will fail. The factors that trigger overbreathing will continue to do so. Breathing behavior remains the means to dissociating from traumatic memories, feelings, and pain. Self-defeating breathing mechanics remain behaviors that yield powerful reinforcements.
cognitive, and state dependent learning may all weave
together to configure a tough and recalcitrant behavioral coping pattern. Asthma-based vicious-circle learning is an
example of applied behavioral analysis, as follows:
● Anticipation of difficulty in breathing leads to worry about getting enough air.
● Fear is classically conditioned to transition between breaths.
● Intentional breathing is introduced and where accessory muscles get involved.
● Aborting the
exhale is reinforced with fear reduction.
● Aborting the exhale makes deep breathing seem impossible.
● Fear about “getting enough air” increases.
● Breathing rate increases.
● More accessory muscles get involved.
● Breathing becomes a struggle.
Fear about air, poor mechanics
and intentionality lead to overbreathing.
● Overbreathing leads to airway (local) hypocapnia.
● Airway hypocapnia increases air way resistance
● Airway resistance increases difficulty in breathing and likelihood of symptoms.
● Struggle to breathe increases apprehension, worry, and fear.
● Overbreathing and its associated effects worsen.
● Cerebral (brain) hypocapnia exacerbates emotionality, disorientation, and physical symptoms.
● The resulting symptoms confirm beliefs about breathing and asthma
● The resulting symptoms are falsely attributed to “asthma.”
● Emotionality and effortfulness
result in “trying harder,” failure, and sense of helplessness.
● Cerebral hypocapnia results in dissociation and sets the stage for state-dependent learning.
Defendedness and learned
helplessness become state-dependent behaviors.
● Secondary gain for overbreathing perpetuates dysfunctional breathing.
● Overbreathing may generalize as a coping style for meeting other life challenges.
BEHAVIORAL DETECTIVE WORK PROVIDES THE BASIS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF A LEARNING PLAN.
Behavioral Physiology Institute,