There is no universally agreed definition for dysfunctional breathing, as the condition remains poorly characterised. The following suggestions have been proposed:
- Inappropriate breathing which is persistent enough to cause symptoms, with no apparent organic cause (Clifton-Smith et al. 2011).
- Change in the normal biomechanical breathing patterns results in symptoms, both respiratory and non-respiratory, due to a structural or functional cause (Depiazzi et al. 2016).
- A diagnosis of exclusion (Boulding et al. 2016).
It is particularly challenging to diagnose dysfunctional breathing in the presence of physiological or structural lung disease. In such cases, dysfunctional breathing may be present if the symptoms are disproportionate to the severity of lung disease.