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Asthma Medicines That Cause Anxiety

author image Skyler White
Skyler White is an avid writer and anthropologist who has written for numerous publications. As a writing professional since 2005, White's areas of interests include lifestyle, business, medicine, forensics, animals and green living. She has a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from San Francisco State University and a Master of Science in forensic science from Pace University.
Asthma Medicines That Cause Anxiety
A man's hand holding an albuterol inhaler. Photo Credit: Anita Patterson-Peppers/iStock/Getty Images

Anxiety caused by specific asthma medications may lead to an anxiety disorder, states “A Consumer’s Guide to Psychiatric Drugs.” Moreover, asthma medications can exacerbate preexisting anxiety problems. Alternately, asthma medications in general may cause anxiety due to a psychosomatic response to a psychological connection between respiration and the medication, leading to dependency that can manifest as anxiety, according to “The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychosomatic Medicine.”

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Albuterol and Salmeterol

Albuterol, marketed under brands Proventil and Ventolin, and salmeterol, marketed under the brand Advair, are bronchodilators that treat pulmonary disorders such as asthma and lung disease, explains John Vanin, James Helsley and David Morgan in “Anxiety Disorders.” The class of drugs that albuterol and salmeterol fall under is sympathomimetic amines, which stimulate the sympathetic nervous system similar to hormones like endorphins and adrenaline. Accordingly, they can increase heart rate as well as cause nausea, insomnia and decreased appetite, which are all shared symptoms of anxiety. As a result, those taking albuterol or salmeterol may feel anxious without cause.


Patients with asthma may either inhale or inject corticosteroids. In addition to causing aggression and psychosis, these drugs may also cause anxiety, according to Vanin, Helsley and Morgan. Inhaled corticosteroids cause substantially fewer side effects than systemic corticosteroids, which require injection.


Theophylline is a bronchodilator taken orally. Chemically, it is a methylxanthine akin to caffeine, differing by only one methyl group. It has a narrow therapeutic window, rendering most other asthma medications more effective. Side effects include increased heart rate, nausea, tremor, agitation and insomnia -- cumulatively translating as anxiety to the user.

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  • “A Consumer’s Guide to Psychiatric Drugs: Straight Talk for Patients and Their Families”; John D. Preston, Psy.D., John H. O’Neal, M.D. and Mary C. Talaga, R.Ph., Ph.D.; 2009
  • “The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychosomatic Medicine”; James L. Levenson; 2005
  • “Anxiety Disorders: A Pocket Guide for Primary Care”; John R. Vanin, James D. Helsley and David M. Morgan; 2008
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