I Sigh a Lot — What Does That Mean?

The Short Answer from a psychologist

Q: I often catch myself sighing — is it because I’m stressed?

A: Negative emotional states — such as fear, anxiety and sadness — are in fact associated with sighing more often.

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Some experts hypothesize that people in anxiety-provoking situations may sigh in order to gain temporary relief from distress.

But when frequent sighing continues over a long time — either because of prolonged stress or an anxiety disorder — it can actually worsen anxiety, stress and panic. That’s because it can promote hyperventilation and an increased stress response.

If you find yourself chronically anxious, stressed or panicking, it’s worthwhile asking your doctor about breathing retraining. This is a useful intervention for both body and mind, and is often part of counseling.

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It’s helpful to remember that, on the positive side, you can also sigh to express relief. Sighing can also signal those around you that you’re feeling safe and content.

— Psychologist Carolyn Fisher, PhD

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