Why do I feel like I am suffocating around my parents?

Published on August 28, 2019

From time to time, an adult will seek my help because they feel like they can’t breathe around their parents.  The feeling of not being able to breathe could be from anxiety or panic.  Sometimes, we hold our breath without thinking when we are waiting for something to happen, when we are scared or when we don’t want to be noticed.  Here are a few of the reasons why people might feel like they are suffocating around their parents 

Fear of Judgement

Certain cultures and families, feel that it is in the child’s best interest to put pressure on them.  This pressure can look like academic pressure, career pressure, religious pressure and pressure about marriage and children.  Children and adults do not want to disappoint their parents, so they feel the stress both physically and psychologically.  The physical pressure can sometimes be felt in the chest, which leads to shallow breathing.  When people fear judgement, it can be difficult for them to communicate how they are feeling and what they are thinking.  They might feel like the words are stuck in their throat. 

Walking on Eggshells

If you grew up in a home where you were never sure what would set your parent off or what would make them angry, you learned to walk on eggshells.  Part of walking on eggshells is flying under the radar so that no one notices you.  If no one sees you, you can’t be shouted at or punished.  Holding your breath might be away for you to go unnoticed and let the danger pass.  


You might have different ideas and perceptions from your parents about what is dangerous.  For the most part, parents want to protect their children from physical and emotional harm.  Sometimes this feels quite controlling, especially if your parents think your romantic partner, friends or career choice will harm you.  This feeling of overprotection might feel like a control tactic which leads to feelings of being trapped.  Listen to why your parents think something is dangerous with an open mind. It might be that they are correct, or it might be that they are anxious.  Communicate how you feel in an empathetic way that acknowledges your parent’s concerns.  Some parents can become possessive about their children; this is a more serious issue that might require professional help.  

Past abuse

It is difficult to feel safe around those who have abused or harmed you.  If the abuse is ongoing, make sure that you are safe and find an exit strategy out of the situation.  Adult children often say that they are waiting for their parent to change.  Understand that you cannot control anyone else; you can only control your response to the situation.  It is difficult to break ties with parents out of loyalty and guilt, but sometimes it is the only way for you to be safe.   


If your parent or parents are anxious, it might affect your mood.  If your parent is anxious, they might speak quicker, overanalyze, worry and over-plan.  This can feel suffocating at times because you don’t understand why your parent is hyper or stressed.  Speak with compassion and empathy to your parent.  If you get frustrated and speak harsh words or with a harsh tone, anxiety will worsen.  If you are anxious yourself, find ways to relax and be calm before you see your parents.   


To make an appointment with Dr Monica Borschel call +852 2521 4668 or email m.borschel@mindnlife.com.

Photo by Nate Neelson on Unsplash

Category(s):Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues, Anxiety, Emotional Abuse, Emotional Intelligence

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Welcome! My passion is to help you find inner peace and emotional comfort within yourself and your relationships.

As social creatures, our relationships significantly shape our happiness, well-being, and sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced relationship-related traumas, which can leave us with emotional scars that require recovery.

Attachment traumas, such as divorce, break-ups, infidelity, neglect, and abuse, can be challenging. As an expert in attachment, loss, and trauma, I have spent many years studying how attachment styles can shift with loss and trauma.

I have seen how healthy relationships can lead to secure attachment and how insecure attachment can create turmoil in our lives. I aim to guide you toward cultivating healthy relationships with yourself, your children, your co-parent, and your romantic partner.

I can help you develop new attachment strategies that will allow you to form deeper connections and bonds with those around you. And, if you have children, I can also assist you in establishing secure attachments with both parents, which can be especially helpful in cases of separation or divorce.

I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, where I completed my Bachelor of Science in Psychology at The University of Utah. From there, I moved to New York City, earning my Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. I then pursued my Doctorate in Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong. I lived and worked in Hong Kong as a practicing Clinical Psychologist from 2010-2020. I reside in California and am pursuing my Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) at California Southern University. My training and qualifications include certifications in Brainspotting and High Conflict Coaching.

These tools, combined with my extensive knowledge and experience in the field, enable me to offer you the guidance and support you need to recover from past traumas and build healthy relationships.

My approach to therapy is empathetic, supportive, and tailored to your unique needs. Every person can grow, and thrive. I am committed to helping you achieve your goals. So, whether you are struggling with relationship issues, divorce, abuse, attachment traumas, or other challenges, I am here to help you find the peace and comfort you deserve.

Email me at info@doctormonicaborschel.com or call the MindnLife Clinic at 852 2521 4668