When you suffocate, you struggle for breath, either because you’re being choked to death or because you’re in a stifling room. You can also suffocate in a figurative sense anytime something is restricted.
Suffocate can also mean to die from lack of oxygen. If you’re a miner who gets trapped in a collapsed mine, you'll likely suffocate. Less seriously, if the ventilation system is turned off in your school, you might feel as though you'll suffocate. And if your art teacher insists that you produce Dadaist paintings, you may feel that she's trying to suffocate your talent.