My speech therapist says I breathe wrong (PTSD)


So, I'm seeing a speech therapist... It's been an incredible journey... She's really good at spotting and working with my issues...
And it touches on so many things... so many levels...
We've not explicitly spoken about PTSD and childhood trauma yet, but a lot of what she says makes me think "Ah, yup, that'll be the PTSD..."

Last session, she told me that I breathe wrong... back to front.
I've always known that I breathe terribly cos of PTSD... Diaphragm all tensed up, prepared for the next blow to the solar plexus.
Shallow chest breathing, instead of belly breathing.
Fight-flight breathing.

So, apparently, my diaphragm is so tense (chronically) that I do chest and shoulder breathing and have to actively "suck in" air when I breathe in and then relax, when I breathe out.
Which is the opposite of how you're supposed to breathe.
Your diaphragm is meant to be relaxed.
When you relax, air streams into you, effortlessly.
And when you breathe out, the muscles of your diaphragm push the air out.

I've been practising, but f*** knows how to reverse 40 years of breathing back to front. Sigh...
Speech pathologists are amaaaaaazing resources.

I've been practising, but f*** knows how to reverse 40 years of breathing back to front. Sigh...
Generally? 10,000 repetitions of anything to create mastery.

22,000 breaths in a day mean one COULD -in theory- master a new type of breathing in a day.

No one does.

I’ve taken meds that shut off my breath response. Even the 8 hours the meds lasted for? Meant that by hour 7 I had to be intubated. Because taking EVERY breath consciously, even without changing the type (requiring building up new muscles) you’re probably looking at at most a few hours per day to train the new way to breathe. Even with my LIFE on the line I couldn’t go longer than 7 hours desperately inhaling and exhaling.

So, more likely, you’re looking at 3mo-12mo. Which is the avg amount of time to change posture, or learn how to breathe “properly” in order to sing.
Actually learned a lot about that from massage therapist who also practised yoga and could never figure out why I was always so knotted up. I call it conscious breathing and can relax doing it. Count to 8 breathing in 4 breathing out.
It's a relaxation technique for me though.
It’s possible to change any habit - but takes time and commitment and loads of conscious practise.

I saw a respiratory physiotherapist a few years ago when I was left with a lot of breathlessness post-Covid. She said a huge part of her work (not only with Covid patients) was around teaching people how to breathe properly. Because most people don’t! She gave people exercises to do.

Has your speech therapist given you any exercises? Is respiratory physio an option for you? I’m sure there would be exercises online including videos.

Is breathing the way you are breathing now causing any harm? If not, you may not be invested in putting in all the time, effort and energy to change it.

There are so many different breathing exercises out there eg for relaxation and to encourage breathing from the belly/diaphragm rather than the chest. Trying to build some of those into your daily routine might be a good first step, rather than starting with the intention of having to change the whole way you’ve been breathing all your life.

Good luck!
I'm really grappling to get my head around this...

My brain thinks that clenched diaphragm/ tight solar plexus = safety and being prepared for threats

So, breathing differently = not safe at all

I've found this explanation video, that helps me understand a bit better why PTSD-breathing is unhelpful...

i experienced delayed speech development as a child and was approaching adolescence before i could speak well enough to hold a basic conversation. i couldn't speak well, but i could always sing. i was taught to sing what needed to be said and then to modulate my tones to imitate the monotones of normal speech. for all i know, my speech still filters through the music centers of my brain rather than the speech centers. at 68 years of age, i still stutter under stress, but i can still always sing.

i throw that out there to suggest that possibly music could offer you another tool to help you change those old habits. singing is a breathing exercise, in itself.
I've been finding the same... No matter how tense/ tight/ wrong my breathing is... If I start singing along to a song I really like... My entire system relaxes and voila, my breath is deeper, calmer, smoother...
If I start singing along to a song I really like... My entire system relaxes and voila, my breath is deeper, calmer, smoother...

the next step for me is trusting the backup band playing inside my head as i sing along. like headphones without blocking airflows to my ear canals.
like people didn't look startled enough when i sang along with physical headphones to offer physical clues. . .