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What is ‘air hunger’? A neurologist reveals how it spikes anxiety — and how to stop it

Dr. Tommy Pang on TikTok
Dr. Tommy Pang, a chiropractic neurologist, revealed the simple exercise that could alleviate one of the worst symptoms of anxiety -- air hunger.

A chiropractic neurologist revealed a simple exercise that could alleviate one of the worst, most common but surprising symptoms of anxiety — “air hunger.”

Medically referred to as dyspnea, air hunger is the feeling of shortness of breath people feel when they struggle to breathe, have a tightness in the chest and feel as if they can’t get sufficient air into their lungs.

“Air hunger is one of the worst anxiety and POTS [postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome] symptoms,” Dr. Kwan Kin (Tommy) Pang, a board-certified chiropractor specializing in functional neurology, said in a viral TikTok video.

Air hunger — medically referred to as dyspnea — is the feeling of shortness of breath people feel when they struggle to breathe, have a tightness in the chest and feel as if they can’t get sufficient air into their lungs. TikTok/Dr. TPang
Air hunger — medically referred to as dyspnea — is the feeling of shortness of breath people feel when they struggle to breathe, have a tightness in the chest and feel as if they can’t get sufficient air into their lungs. TikTok/Dr. TPang

Anxiety can manifest in the body in many different ways and impacts a growing number of Americans every year.

POTS is a dysautonomia condition caused by a dysregulated nervous system that leads to several symptoms when a person moves from lying down to standing up, such as a fast heart rate, dizziness and air hunger.

“You try to breathe, but your breath doesn’t feel like it’s enough. You force a yawn but still can’t get the air to fill your lungs. It’s like there’s no oxygen in the air or like your lungs are too weak,” Pang, who goes by Dr. TPang online, said in explaining air hunger.

The video went viral with 18.2 million views as thousands of people turned to the comments, thanking Pang for finally placing a name to the sneaky symptom.

“Air hunger is one of the worst anxiety and POTS symptoms,” Dr. Kwan Kin (Tommy) Pang, a board-certified chiropractor specializing in functional neurology, said in a now-viral TikTok video. TikTok/Dr. TPang
“Air hunger is one of the worst anxiety and POTS symptoms,” Dr. Kwan Kin (Tommy) Pang, a board-certified chiropractor specializing in functional neurology, said in a now-viral TikTok video. TikTok/Dr. TPang

To help his desperate viewers, Pang posted a follow-up TikTok video demonstrating a brain exercise he claims stabilizes the nervous system and satiates air hunger to help people “feel more at ease.”

He started by sitting in a chair and focusing on a circle on the wall directly in front of him — he noted that any object at eye level would work as a focal point.

The doctor then began slowly turning his head from left to right keeping his focus on the circle at all times.

After a few turns, he slowly stood up from his seat while continuing to turn his head while remaining focused on his focal point.

Pang advised those who struggle with air hunger to repeat the exercise twice a day but to stop if they feel dizzy.