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Home » Sexual Resources » Sex Articles » Sexual Dysfunction

Erotic Asphyxiation
Breath Control Play: A Dangerous Way To Get Pleasure

Breath Control Play is a complicated issue, as some people really enjoy it and continue to do it without negative effects, while others have suffered brain damage and even death from it. We of course DO NOT recommend or endorse such activities. The following article is simply to provide educational information regarding this topic.

Breath Control Play is also known as Erotic Asphyxiation, auto-erotic asphyxiation (if solo), breath games, breath play, hypoxyphilia, scarfing, gaspers, choke chicks, airwalkers and other names.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

Copyright: Holistic Wisdom- Do NOT Copy Warning

Copyright © Holistic Wisdom, Inc.

What Is It?

This is the process of limiting or restricting air and/or the supply of oxygen to the brain. Below are more specific examples of it-

Auto-erotic asphyxiation:
The process of limiting or restricting air and/or the supply of oxygen to the brain WHILE ALONE.

This usually involves compression of the carotid arteries to prevent blood from reaching the brain.

This involves somehow reducing the level of oxygen in the air available to breathe (usually gradually).

This is a type of play that involves being suspended by the neck.

Breath play:
The process of making someone more conscious of, directing, or using breath in play. The process of role-playing or bringing about the psychological state of traditional breath play without using traditional methods.


Why Do People Do It?

The pleasure derived from strangulation during sex can be physical or psychological or both. Each type of pleasure can be quite compelling on its own, but put them together and the combination can create the motivation for a dangerous habit as evidenced by the death of the actor David Carradine.

The physical pleasure occurs because the brain's oxygen supply gets reduced. This condition is called hypoxia and can lead to a lucid semi-hallucinogenic state. Couple that state with an orgasm and some people find the sensation very gripping. The problem is that there's no sure way (or even a somewhat sure way) to know when you are at the point of no return from brain damage and death.

It is quite powerful to feel yourself restricted in any way that involves the face or throat. People use a variety of techniques to experience this. One example is by using a gasmask or hood. The gasmask or hood makes for a secluded sensation allowing the wearer to feel like they are escaping into their own world while experiencing sexual activity. It also provides a feeling of tightness and restriction which also can be a turn on to some.

There are many examples a few others include- using a corset or other restricting device that creates a sense of pain and restriction. Other people simply hold their breath and some even do this in public as an added "deviance" factor.

Oxygen deprivation, meaning having a lower amount of oxygen available (hypoxia) or no oxygen (anoxia) can make people feel light headed as it is pleasurable to some people. Depending on the person one can enjoy different levels of this.

Some people also enjoy the sheer level of panic or risk that comes with such an activity, much like people that jump out of an airplane for the thrill. However, most people who claim to enjoy the risk need to have some level of safety in order to enjoy it. Like those jumping out of an airplane, a parachute is not taken for granted. These people enjoy risk and letting go while knowing precautions have been taken to provide security in order to do it. However, no amount of precautions will take all the risk out of doing this.


Why You Should NOT Do It- Risk & Danger

Potential for fatal accidents occurring is always present with erotic asphyxiation. It is estimated that between 250 and 1,000 deaths occur yearly in the United States as a result of "asphyxiophilia." Obviously, this means that there is extreme risk-taking in doing something like this. Below are some of the main ways one can cause damage or death from doing this activity-

Trachea Damage

The trachea is commonly known as the windpipe. Some people who practice breath control put pressure on the trachea during play which can lead to the trachea rupturing. This will cause intense pain, gasping for air, and thick secretions in the throat. This is a medical emergency and proper medical care must be sought immediately.

This kind of pressure can also cause Tracheitis, which is an inflammation of the trachea. The signs of tracheitis are thick secretions of the throat, swelling, croup like cough, sore throat, and fever. This may seem minor at first and it may correct itself if the throat is rested however, this can ultimately turn deadly very quickly.

Larynx Damage

The larynx is the enlarged upper end of trachea below the root of the tongue. It is the organ for the voice and consists of nine cartilage bound together by elastic membranes and moved by muscles. It is a very intricate structure and can be easily injured.

A fracture of the Larynx is a serious injury that needs immediate medical attention. Some signs of fracture or compression of larynx are loud breathing, choking and gasping respiration, weak and fast pulse, and blue skin. If left untreated it will usually lead to death. It can also seriously damage the voice if a person does manage to survive the injury.

Laryngitis is also a complication of any form of compression of the larynx. It is essentially an inflammation of the larynx. Some symptoms of laryngitis are loss of voice, hoarseness, pain, and sometimes coughing.

Blood Vessel Damage

Breath Play often puts stress on the blood vessels of the neck, especially the carotid arteries. Post-traumatic carotid dissection is essentially stretching and small tearing of the artery brought on by trauma such as strangulation. The symptoms of this tearing are vision loss, weakness, numbness, and/or speech difficulties. These events may be temporary or permanent. The only treatment is to get to a doctor and have it evaluated.


A stroke is basically a sudden loss of consciousness and paralysis caused by a hemorrhage in the brain, blockage of a blood vessel with a blood clot / foreign object, or a rupture of an artery in the brain. Sometimes during strangulation or breath play, plaque (a fatty substance in the blood vessels) is dislodged. If that happens it can lodge itself in the blood vessel and lead to a stroke.

Strokes are unfortunately very common and a few symptoms of one are loss of consciousness, paralysis, unequal pupils (large one on side of stroke), paralysis usually on one side, sweating, slightly lowered temperature, and speech disturbances.

You are more prone to stroke if you have had one before, have a history of heart or blood pressure problems, are overweight, in poor physical condition, or have a cholesterol problem.

Cervical Spine Damage

A Fracture in the Cervical Spine will usually cause pain, possible paralysis, fainting, and suppression of reflexes. A pinched nerve in the area of the cervical spine will mimic a lot of the symptoms of a fracture and is also very serious. In the long term, if left untreated, it can cause constant pain and loss of muscle tone. Remember, hanging was originally not used to strangle someone but instead used to break their neck.

Airway Obstruction by the Tongue

A simple thing to overlook is that if your partner passes out their tongue might fall back in their throat and continue to suffocate them

Aspiration of Vomit, Mucus, Saliva

Sometimes a person can inhale his or her own vomit, mucus, or saliva. This is very dangerous. Usually a person will not actually draw the materials completely into the lungs. The symptoms of aspiration of foreign materials is coughing, unconsciousness, cyanosis, cardiac arrest, and cessation of breathing.

In Conclusion

With that said, Breath Play or Erotic Asphyxiation is clearly very risky behavior. It does not necessarily mean that someone who enjoys it is sick or dysfunctional, as many people take major risks with their health and life all the time and are normal, healthy individuals. The bottom line is that there are other ways to experience sexual pleasure than risking your health and life. While we encourage people to always march to the beat of their own drummer, we hope you do it safely!

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