Patients with Pseudodysphagia complaint about the inability to swallow but they do not have any physical symptoms to account for their condition. The word Pseudodysphagia comes from Greek Phagophobia where “phagein” means eating and “phobos” means deep dread, aversion or fear. Other names for this phobia include sitophobia where sito is Greek for food.
Pseudodysphagia is an unnatural and irrational fear of choking or swallowing that causes a person to believe s/he will become ill or die if one tries to eat solid foods. The nature of difficulty these patients face when it comes to swallowing varies depending on the level of their fear: some people can only eat very small pieces of well lubricated foods, while others are afraid of drinking liquids or swallowing pills or tablets. Naturally, there is substantial loss of weight in this phobia and it is a debilitating condition that can interfere with one’s day-to-day life.
What are the causes of fear of choking phobia?
As with most specific phobias, Pseudodysphagia also begins with a negative experience related to swallowing food. As a child, the phobic might have choked, vomited or had an “embarrassing response” after swallowing certain types of foods. The brain then creates the same response as a defensive mechanism each time one is confronted with the thought of eating. For example, a patient recalls choking (as a child) on a quarter after it got lodged in his throat. He lost consciousness and turned blue and recalls fearing eating solid foods like steaks, meats, capsules, pills (anything hard or chewy) after the incident.
Psychiatrists also believe that most people with the extreme fear of choking are usually anxious or suffering from other psychiatric disorders like depression, Hypochondriasis, Agoraphobia or have a general predisposition to panic attacks.
The fear of choking is also often listed in conjunction with Globus sensation-(a condition that comes and goes wherein the patient feels there is a lump in his throat that prevents him from eating). However, the two conditions are different; Globus sensation is more common and occurs when patients are typically suffering from ear-nose-throat infections that cause them to fear they might choke or vomit after eating.
Symptoms of Pseudodysphagia
Psychogenic Dysphagia leads to many psychological symptoms, the most important one being inefficient or disorganized swallowing. Other symptoms of the fear of choking include:
- Avoidance of food, especially swallowing pills, tablets, hard and chewy foods
- Abnormal oral behavior is also seen including deviant tongue movements, feeling the throat pressure, and complaint of globus sensation.
- Malnutrition and weight loss are common side effects of this phobia
- General difficulties in breathing, swallowing and other issues like elevated heart rate, feeling dizzy, having fearful thoughts of dying, passing out or embarrassing oneself in front of others are common symptoms of Pseudodysphagia.
- Nightmares about choking on candy, peanuts or indelible objects also tend to keep these patients awake at night.
- Some refuse to eat in front of others thinking that swallowing makes “unpleasant noises”.
Needless to say, this phobia is a debilitating condition that affects the normal life of the patients.
Overcoming the fear
Experts recommend taking a multi-disciplinary approach for overcoming the fear of swallowing. This includes professionals from fields of psychiatry, Otolaryngology, radiology as well as Gastroenterology.
Aversion relief therapy has been proven to be quite effective in treating the fear of choking. In this extreme measure, the patient is given a slight shock to his fingers until he swallows. To get relief, the patient has no option but to swallow the food, since the shock is ceased only after swallowing action takes place. This has shown good results since many patients have progressed to swallowing at normal rate after 8-10 sessions of aversion therapy.
Desensitization therapy is another proven and effective treatment for patients having the extreme fear of choking which leads to recurrent nightmares. This therapy is often used along with tongue depressors at the back of the throat to help patients overcome their anxiety about swallowing.
Relaxation sessions may also be conducted before eating meals. These include breathing deeply, positive visualization and/or guided meditation. These self-help methods along with behavior therapy and Gradual desensitization are very useful in overcoming Pseudodysphagia or the fear of choking.
Unlike most of these comments, I am only not able to swallow in public. At home, I can devour food most of the time, and it’s like I’m normal. But in public or with friends, it’s like my body keeps the food or drink (even water) in the back of my mouth, and I feel like I will choke. I grab onto the table or anything close and grip for my life while I force down whatever I’m trying to swallow. I don’t understand why because I don’t have anxiety. I could speak in front of 100 people and would probably have fun doing it but eating when someone could potentially see me won’t happen. It’s ruining my social life. I hate it, and I’ve been living with it for 2 years now. The doctor prescribed anxiety meds and kept switching when they didn’t help. No meds helped. I can’t even drink water in the back of my uni class. But the moment I get to my car, I can chug the whole bottle. I need help.
Ivanna Bojanini says
Hey everyone! I’m 11yrs old. A week ago, I was eating mozzarella sticks, and I felt it got stuck. And I had an anxiety attack. The next day I felt I couldn’t swallow food. Like everything I eat, I feel it gets stuck. I’ve been scared of choking since then. I know if I would still have something stuck, I would have passed already, but it still scares me even if I know I’m ok. My family members think I’m crazy for having this. But mostly for a kid like me, it’s hard to overcome things like these, too much pressure. Does anyone know any tips?
Oh god, this makes me so sad. I’m so sorry that you have this phobia. I’m 23, and I have a fear of choking as well. It sucks because it developed a month ago for me, and ever since, I can’t eat the same way. I stick to cereal, sandwiches, bread, milk, and even shakes. It makes me so sad because I used to be able to eat carne asada and shrimp like crazy, and I would eat anything. But suddenly, my brain just makes me feel so bad. It really sucks. I hope we can all overcome this one day. I don’t want it to go on forever.
It’s so comforting to know that I’m not the only one who feels like this. It started when I was in the shower, and I felt a sharp pain in my throat. It always hurt when I swallowed food since then, and I started to fear that I would choke on my food. I began to avoid eating and swallowing because it would hurt every time I did. My parents booked an appointment for me after telling them and took me to the doctor the next day. They did some tests, but they came back negative. After that, I barely ate, and after a while, the pain in my throat went away. My mom was trying to get me to eat, and I broke down because I was starving, but I was too scared to eat. They took me to the University Health Center: Children’s hospital. The doctor told me that I had probably eaten something that scratched my throat and started to heal, which caused the lump feeling. I had gone to that doctor 2 or 3 days after the other one, and I had lost 3 pounds. I started to feel a little better knowing there was physically nothing wrong with me, and I was doing good until today. I kept telling myself that I would eat later when I became hungry. I was hungry the whole time. It’s just that my anxiety is making me focus on my throat. Sorry for rambling.
OH MY GOD, SAME! I’m 11yrs old. One day I was just casually eating, and I felt it got stuck. I got pretty scared, and since then, I’ve been having a fear of eating. I even have to chew soup. I recognize its anxiety, but I can’t get through it! Are you better now? Any tips?
Can this be inherited? I was told a grandparent suffered with the same.
46 year old female from Baltimore MD. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I just try to eat slow and take deep breaths and not turn my head side to side, stay looking forward. I do have GAD and before my situation that created the GAD, I had no problems eating. It gets bad sometimes when it feels as if something is caught right at the back of my throat. I take my finger and try to dig back there. It’s scary and it causes me to get more anxious of course. I couldn’t eat for months because of my anxiety trigger and then the actual diagnosis of anxiety I lost 25 pounds. A dr. recommended protein drinks, which I drank for about 5 months then began to get painful pins and needles sensations. My anxiety lead me to believe it could have been from the protein drinks, so I stopped drinking them. I am in therapy but in the middle of starting with a new therapist. I still have the sensations. I’ve been told it could be from my anxiety. SMH. Everything is from anxiety they say. My chest bones are sore, guess what, it’s your anxiety they say. But anyway it’s a daily struggle just having GAD but then having this horrible fear of choking makes it worse. You’re not alone. It may feel like it, but you’re not.
Hello. How did you overcome your fear of choking? Did you ever use ERP therapy? What about meds.?
Frida Ramirez says
Reading these comments help me so much to understand and stay calm while I eat and feel less alone.
I have finally found someone who has the same issues as me. Mine is so severe that I am now afraid of drinking water. Please help me with this. I don’t know how I got here, and I need help getting out.
I am going through the same thing right now. It started off with solids, then softer foods, and I’ve gotten so scared I panic from drinking water. We will get through this.
I have gone through phases of this three times in my lifetime. I’m only 18 now. No one has ever been able to help me. It’s been really hard, and it is nice to see someone who understands. I hope you’re doing okay now.
Me too! I am 16 and have had episodes of this severe fear of choking since I was 7 and choked for the first time. I have never actually choked other than that one point in my life. I also have bad acid reflux, so that’s also a challenge in itself to deal with, especially with this horrible fear of choking I have. I’m currently in one of my “episodes,” but this one has been incredibly severe compared to the others. Since June, I have lost 25 pounds from not eating and currently only eating things like grits, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, etc., but my anxiety gets worse by the day. I feel like I won’t even be able to eat those soon. I feel better knowing that other people can relate to my situation. I’m starting therapy with a new counselor soon and actively looking for professionals who could help me with this. Unfortunately, in South Carolina, there isn’t much to offer. It also sucks because I feel like this fear is so rare, and therapists and doctors sometimes don’t know how to go about it. I’m so sorry that you have also had to go through this fear. I hope you are doing better now.
These comments help so much, knowing I’m not alone.
Years back, my throat was so dry that I used to choke easily. Ever since I started to drink juice or water as I eat to be able to swallow.
Now last month, I took this new probiotic herbal medicine as a preventive for UTI. When I took it an hour later, I was so afraid that I was allergic to it that my ears became hot, and I felt my throat closing and breathing became so hard that I panicked that maybe I was going through an anaphylactic shock. I started vomiting nonstop. A couple of hours later, I started to get better. Deep inside, I felt my anxiety caused it, but I wasn’t sure. A month later, I still felt pressure in my throat and became scared to eat to get an anaphylactic shock. I was afraid of even smelling pollen in the air. I started to grow phobia from being allergic, and slowly I’m trying to get back with food. I still get so much pressure constantly in my throat, which made me afraid maybe it’s the stomach acidity causing it to spasm.
I was focusing so much on my throat. But deep inside, I know anxiety is affecting me and causing my panic.
I try not to think about what will happen or what I eat to avoid these feelings.
I’m fighting it and hoping for a recovery.
All I know is that my anxiety is causing me to think this way, and I shouldn’t be focusing on my breathing.
Also, to add to my comment:
I lived a life seeing my mum choke a lot due to GERD.
I have asthma and can get itchy.
And since last month I have lost so much weight and become dizzy and weak. I traveled to a resort, and it was so bad because I was refusing to eat and couldn’t deal with the humidity making me breathless.
This phobia really affected my life. Dining out became a nightmare when it was one of my fav things to do.
Also I want to add that I avoid eating out most times because of my fear of choking. If I do, I’ll get something like ice cream that goes down easy.
Wow! I went through most of the comments and I have to say, I go through this as well. Sometimes I just have my days when my anxiety starts randomly and I just feel tension in my throat. I tend to get anxious sometimes while eating that I think when I swallow I’ll choke on my food, but it’s all in my head, or sometimes I’ll feel like something is stuck. Sometimes after eating chips, I avoid foods like steak and Mozzarella sticks as I feel like they’re choking hazards. I now chew my food really thoroughly (as everyone should). I feel better when I drink liquid after every bite. I just take a bit longer to eat just to make sure my food is in tiny, tiny pieces so that I can swallow it. Glad to know I’m not the only one who goes through this!
Omg I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. Right now I’m seeing a psychiatrist (for other reasons and then my fear of choking suddenly triggered.) I’m still on my 4th week and I hope I get better soon. I hate this feeling. I lost weight already for the past weeks.
Yvonne Brady says
Hi folks. While it is a huge relief knowing that I’m not the only one who’s fear is really real, I’m wondering if there’s varying types of it. I grew up watching my father (R.I.P) nearly choke on a daily basis. My mother said it was because he had a “small swallow”. I’m the youngest of 6 kids, so I had to watch this longer than my siblings. And it’s affected me since, and has affected my mother too. I’m 43, a single parent to a 22 yr old, and a granny to a 9 month old girl. And I’m terrified. Absolutely terrified that my granddaughter will choke. My fear now has somehow gone from ME choking to HER, and I just cant control it. I used to be worse – tablets were a huge issue, and sometimes halfway through a meal, I would feel like I couldn’t breathe and would have to throw away the rest of the food. I got to a point where I just got sick of being like this, then I gave myself a good talking to and it seemed to have worked. I still have some bad days, but I only eat small portions of food at a time, so that’s better. However, things now are coming to a head – my daughter is going back to work next week from 6am, so I’ll have to feed the baby for 2 meals, and I’m so frightened that I’ll choke her. Up to now, I’ve tried to feed her and been successful up to a point. The amounts I give her on a spoon are minuscule, and she’s looking for more so she makes faces, but I think she’s choking. Thankfully my daughter is not the same and has no fear in giving her proper spoonfuls. Any time I’ve been left to feed her on my own, I’ve ended up in tears while doing it, and I don’t want the baby growing up with this complex around food. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Christina McCallum says
I suffer terribly with this fear. I’ve had this debilitating intense fear off and on since I was around 10 years old.
One day during a weekend family drive I choked on piece of gum. I recall the incident vividly. My girlfriend, who enjoyed coming along for the drives, was leaning back in one of the vans captain chairs, giggling and being a goof. To join along in the fun, I leaned my seat back and began laughing without considering the danger of the piece of gum in my mouth.
Once the gum lodged I immediately could not breath. Frantically I got up and headed to the front of the van to alert my grandparents. I remember my grandmas face of panic. We were in the middle of nowhere taking in country views, not a house or business within miles, so of course she didn’t know how to save me, I was a goner.
But she still just stared at me and thats when I knew she couldn’t help. All of a sudden with a huge breath the gum dislodged. I’m assuming it went into my lungs if it was stuck in my windpipe. I didn’t feel as if I swallowed it.
Anyhow, I could breathe!
After that day, I have never been the same.
It’s so strange because I’ll go through periods were I can eat just fine. Something will happen, not sure what, and I feel as if I choke on my food, or I can feel it in my throat, or I forgot how to chew and swallow. It’s ridiculous.
I’ve been married 15 years. My husband loves food and we have never gone out on a dinner date because of me and my fear.
He’s so good to me and does everything to help me stay healthy. He blends my foods on my very bad days.
I wish this would just go away. Have had 2 very bad weeks. Lost about 8 pounds and consistently suffer with the feeling of something in my throat.
Jennifer Curry says
I too suffer from a fear of choking. I have trouble with food coming back up or getting stuck in my throat to where I have to force it up. I am curious, when you do eat food, do you ever feel as though the food is stuck in your throat and you have to force yourself to get it out? Or suffer from regurgitating food? Thanks in advance.
Kendall Anfield says
Hi Jennifer, I am 18 years old and currently in college. I relapsed last Summer and have struggled with eating my first few weeks. I’ve been losing a lot of weight because of this. I understand this feeling and experience is almost every time I eat. When I gain the courage to eat, I feel like there is food lodged in my throat. Because of this I will clear my throat often, force myself to throw up, and try and push it up with my throat. I’ve gone through the barium swallows and the eating specialist but it always seems to follow me. I try and tell myself I’m fine and that there is nothing there, but this lump feeling lasts for days on end sometimes.
I choked on fried brown sugar ham when I was 15. Now 31 I still don’t eat meats etc unless it’s potted meat, tomato soup, pudding, ice cream, instant mashed potatoes and that’s about it for me and I have been told I’m gonna die young, my life sucks!
Christina McCallum says
Hi Jay, I’m so sorry to hear that. I suffer along with you. Mine comes in waves. I just began an episode 2 weeks ago. I feel like im choking on everything. It’s so absurd. I know people eat everyday and many times a day with no issues, yet I panic when simply drinking juice.
Have you tried looking up nutritional recipes that can be put into a blender or food processor?
How about seeking a medical professional? I haven’t yet but want to.
Seth Needham says
Hello I’m Seth. I just went to a pediatrician about this. Overall I think we all agree it’s just a fear, however, I’ve been going through this for the past three days and I’m happy to report that nothing is blocking my airways and I hate to say it but the only way you can get over it alone is to just say “screw fear” and just eat and trust me, knowing what it’s like I know it’s hard, but it’s the only way that you will get through this. It isn’t new to me, I experienced it in the 5th grade and I got over it by just eating. If you want to talk to a medical professional about it that’s fine and you should feel no shame in asking about it.
No one can tell you that you will die young. Thank you for the foods you listed. I will serve these to my husband. He has lost 50 pounds in 2 years.
So, you’ve all got pretty much the same problem, fear of swallowing. I do.
But has anyone got any answers what type of help or support works to overcome it?
When you’re at a restaurant, try to talk to who you’re with and it will take your mind off the fear. It works very well for me.
Hi, 3 months ago I ate and choked on food that was very dry and I panicked. Very rapidly, as in the same day, I avoided food and for the next 7 days had only liquids. I got myself to the doctor the quickest appointment I could get as I know things like this can snowball. He placed me on diazapem for 7 days only and they did make me more relaxed but did not help with my issue. I then started CBT and for the past 3 months this has helped me realise the following:
1. I kept saying I want to be normal again in therapy. GUESS WHAT ? I am normal I am just experiencing some anxiety which I am getting help for. It might take some time. There is no cut off time to get ‘better’ . It will take as long as it takes and thats ok. It’s tough to accept help, for me it was. I wanted to FIX it on my own, I wanted to get back to normal, I wanted to stop being silly and just eat. I was putting so much pressure on myself. Why can’t I do it, whats wrong with me… all negative little digs at myself. I even stupidly said, I want this fixed in 2 weeks as I am going on holiday. It did not happen and of course not so much pressure to FIX to get Normal. Now I see how hard I was on myself how critical. I would never have been so hard on a friend . ever.
2. Go easy on yourself: Be KIND to yourself: stop, breathe and start from the beginning. Step one, just forget about food for a minute, have you got your vitamins and minerals, are you drinking enough water. Get juices, soups, water, shakes. if you need to go on liquid for a little bit, that’s fine, relax. Get your vits and mins first. If your body starts to flag because you are missing vitamins and minerals then your body will feel tired, down and you will feel upset, ill. Now that does not help this situation does it ?!!
3. DO not let it overtake your life. It’s ok so say, I have a problem right now. It affects my eating. It’s ok. It will not stop me doing other things in life, I can still go out, still see friends, still work. When it first happened I felt like I could not do or go anywhere which is silly…. of course you can. When I could eat freely I did not walk around stuffing my face with food 24/7. So stop focusing the whole day on your fear. You should eat XXX calories, you should eat XXX times a day. You can still do this maybe in liquid form for a few days / weeks.
Do not let your fear overtake your whole life its just one aspect that is unpleasant but its not your whole life. Your eating issue is not YOU, you are a full and complex person, you like to read XX books and listen to XX music, you like going to the cinema, you like seeing friends, you like watching tv you like looking at birds in the garden. This issue is not YOU. This is a food anxiety issue that’s happening right now and you will deal with it and get it sorted but do not let it rule you.
4. Think about your issue for a maximum of 10 minutes in the hour and build down to 5 mins and so on.
These issues have a tendency to overtake the whole hours thinking. If you can limit your worry, fear, anxiety about this issue to 10 mins in each hour. Write down your fear and then after 10 mins, get up and say, ENOUGH NOW. I will come back to this but for now, enough. Then do something watch tv, sing a song, see a friend, call someone. make the bed, clean the shower.. whatever it is. Re route your mind to another aspect of life.
5. Lincoln said I move slowly but I never go backwards – or something like this… small, tiny steps in the right direction. Whats a tiny step ? how about the first step making sure you have your calories and vitamins. Think about how you can achieve this.
6. Get your mind off the issue you are experiencing, as said before YOU ARE NOT YOUR ANXIETY. You need to start to get your life back , write a list of the things you wish to do, like see a friend and any issues you might have with this, what if she offers me a drink or something to eat. Work out what these situations might bring up and how you can go about sorting them. For example you meet a friend she suggests coffee, you say instead, how about a little walk I can do with moving a bit more.
its not about avoidance, these are steps to start re focusing your mind on other aspects of your life.
CBT or other therapy can help with your swallowing issues but you can drive your own life too. Get your vitamins, get your minerals, get your water, don’t put your life on hold.
3 months on, things are getting better I can write a whole list of food I can swallow – yes I have a whole list I cannot but it’s ok. I dont have a time limit. It might take me a year who knows.. longer. I am getting my vitamins and living my life. I have made adjustments and I am at times sad I am not eating a big pepperoni pizza, but its ok…. I might one day or I might not…. but I am not just pepperoni pizza, I am so much more than that !
Louis Salera says
Well put Kay. I choked on a pill last week and now I’m afraid to eat solids. It’s tough.
I have this same issue. I’ve been dealing with it for five long years. This is absolutely the very best post I’ve seen. Thank you for your insight, your words of encouragement.
Thank you for this, I’m currently going through the fear of swallowing but this really helped to read – especially the first point of just wanting to be “normal”, my OCD and anxiety make it very hard for me to accept that I am just that at times. Hope you are doing much better these days.
Thank you very much, kay. Your words have been very helpful. Mine is not so severe, but I’m sure I’ll get over it in no time with this good advice. Everyone will. It’s just a matter of staying positive and having good vibes.
i am 63 now have had this problem since i was 26. got choked at a dinner and had to have the the heimlich maneuver performed, was fine afterward, i went about a year and a half and kind of got choked on a glass of milk and the fear of choking started from that point on. will not eat steak, afraid of swallowing pills, The food i eat has to be chewed very well. eventually got better with some depression medicines. still eat very slow, can eat hamburgers and chicken is best for me, I can chew it to the consistency i like before swallowing. i was coping in my own way the past few years. i have battled poor teeth for years, i was always afraid dentures would be a problem. just had what was left of my upper teeth pulled and have a new upper denture, the choking fear is back in full force in just two days, the denture covers the top of your mouth and the sensation throws off my swallowing routine, feels like i am gulping and that triggers my choking fear. will go to MD and get some medication hopefully that will help. Sorry you all are going through this, i know how it makes you feel about yourself.
Thomas gammell says
I have read all your comments and I am amazed that other people have this situation as well as I have had and it has given me anxiety around food. I am looking into alternative medications to use. I am just about to start a probiotic drink called kefire. I will let everyone know how I get on it affects the good bacteria in the stomach which means more quality serotonin and good flora works from the large amount of serotonin on the brain up the vagus nerve from the stomach to the brain.
wow this is amazing i thought i was the only one with this problem! was looking up on swallowing phobias kept scrolling down and then people came up with the same problem! i choked on my supper of crackers and cheese when i was 15 couldn’t eat the rest and that was the start i eat one meal a day, i know this sounds disgusting but sometimes i find it a problem to swallow my salavia losts so much weight! fed up with it all! i wish all on here well
I have this problem too. It’s been 9 years that i have had this damn sickness and i just realized that i can’t handle it myself.
So i went to see a doctor today. He wrote me some pills and 10 sessions of TMS. Please tell me if anyone has had such therapy and was it useful or not? I really need help i’m so afraid of TMS and what’s going to happen to me after that.
A month ago while I was eating my dinner I choked on it and again same happened while I was eating breakfast next dinner that makes me anxious as hell ..I went to a doctor and he said I have bacterial infection ..though infection subsided after 10 days but my fear of choking still persist ..I could not eat outside my home or without water beside me as i fear I will choke on it ..
The fear of choking, I believe I’ve had since about late 2015. I really thought I was the only one with this problem. Growing up, I’ve got addicted to energy drinks, middle school days at the age of 13; drinking at least 1–4 a day. Red Bull, rockstar, full throttle, and the high sugar/caffeinated Mountain Dew and any sweet drink I can get to. I started my morning with an 8oz red bull before anything. Speeding up my point. I “ruined” my heart for a short duration leading me with anxiety because of the drugs of: Caffiene, Gaurana, Taurine— inside of the energy drinks. My heart recovered, I testify that in Jesus’ name, amen. The fear of death caused me to go to a higher power, who/what and such can deliever me from death— Jesus Christ. Don’t worry, I’m not going all out on that stage, yet I am a firm strong believer and follower…
For years I’ve denied I’ve had anxiety, anxiety of… not making it to Heaven, having a fear of death (overcomed), I deny anxiety because I personally know it’s not for me, it should’ve be with and for me ??? It’s confusing to me because my denial— only piled up to show me what I should’ve felt with in the meantime. Denial caught up to me. I’ve grown up, and guess what anxiety grew with me… let’s put it as, I chose not to check what was wrong with my truck. I chose not to change my oil, I didn’t want to check what was wrong because I had to deal with it at such an age. And the damage eventually caught up to me ?
I have a fear of choking. It’s something I’ve kept to myself. My family doesn’t know about it. My close friends do not know about it. Even if I still had a girlfriend, I’m not sure if I’d talk to her about this. I haven’t told anybody until I have seen, I’m not the only one dealing with this. Anybody who’s confessed before me, I believed I was the only one dealing with such destruction. As I know I’m not alone. Anybody isn’t alone with this, and anybody to read these testimonies and confessions and cry for help with [anxiety].
I’m 20 years old, and since it’s time to grow up. And be a man. I chose to face these problems. I chose to go for help. And testify that it will not overcome me, my relationship with my family and friends and future loved ones. I will enjoy eating tough foods, I will enjoy having a (careful) mouth–full of Taco Bell, delicious pizza, homemade steaks. I will enjoy dinner out eating, birthdays, and morning breakfast. You will too!
Thank you to anyone before me, showing me I’m not alone. And I can and I will overcome anxiety. And fears. God Almighty richly bless you all.
My mother has always had a very bad fear of choking, and now that i have a son, she has become worse. There has never been one day that I didn’t go to her house and hear her say the piece of food i put in his mouth was too big, or stringy or tough. She only trusts herself to feed him. I give him normal sized bites for a child his age and would never put my child in danger of choking. Her anxiety is now ruining our relationship, and I feel its better off i dont go see her anymore, until she realizes she has a problem. She has anxiety in general, but this just happens to be the worst one because she involves everyone.
It is appropriate not to let your mother be around when feeding your child as children often feels what the adults are feeling. she has a problem as noted above and needs professional help. If there is no physical problem with swallowing then it is due to anxiety etc. Hope this helps..
About 6 weeks ago, I was driving and eating a burger on the go. I went to swallow and choked. I nearly wrecked my car and by the time I got pulled over and beat on my tummy to get it up, I was seeing stars. It was terrifying and I’m crying even now as I write this. About a week ago, I was eating dinner and all of this came rushing back. I couldn’t swallow my food because it kept replaying over and over in my head. Now I’m stuck on liquid and very soft foods. I can’t seem to swallow more solid foods because I’m scared of choking again. How can I get through this? Will it eventually go away?
hey tonya? how are you feeling today? don’t worry it will return to normal soon as your anxiety improves. I’ve been there for years, I’ve been struggling with this phobia for several years and I could not find help from the experts because there is nothing wrong with me. no organic problems are present and everything is perfect but what I have learned is how powerful phobia and our mind could be. you are perfectly capable of swallowing, but the problem is your amygdala where stress and fear generates. what helps me so much is the mindfulness meditation, relaxation, exercise and desensitization therapy, slowly I was able to regain the control of my swallowing again and returned to normal life. it requires patience, discipline, focus and determination and it takes several days or weeks to notice improvements to what you’ve been doing. God is in sovereign control. God bless
Hello, I feel so encouraged of your response to Tonya. I choked about a month ago and now have eaten nothing but liquids too. Would you mind emailing me so we can email each other. I too am Christian.
Louise Glazer says
Could you email me too.
Jenny D says
This sounds just like me. I have been on a soft food diet and liquids only for about 8 months I choked so bad on fried rice at the top of my throat felt like there was a golf ball and nothing would come up when I tried to vomit to force it up and nothing would go down. I now have an intense fear of choking so I don’t even try solid foods.
Are you still working on overcoming your fears or what has helped you so far?
It’s crazy how many people actually have this fear I had it for a while and it’s getting really really bad right now and I only put baby pieces in my mouth so it takes me like an hour to eat my dinner. And sometimes I still have to spit it out thinking that it’s too big thinking I’m going to choke People thought I was crazy for having this fear makes me not want to eat or not eat around other people . It started a year and 1/2 ago and I don’t know why . Good thing about it I lost a lot of weight bad thing I have no energy cant even get out of bed sometimes maybe because lack of vitamins are nutrients I dont know if anybody has some tips or anything that can please help let me know thanks..
A couple of weeks ago I swallowed a piece of semi UN-chewed steak and thought it was stuck in my throat and felt I was going to die choking. I thought I could still feel the steak lodged in my throat 30 minutes later and panicked. Following this incident I fear choking on solid foods. I resorted to mainly soft foods such as baby foods and ice cream. I eat very similar to Angie.
Tips for Angie: get a vitamin drink mix. I drink the Trader Joe’s green drink mix. Drink coconut water and various juices. I looked up foods for people who can’t chew and found a lot of resources and ideas. I personally like yogurt, applesauce, soups, cottage cheese and ice cream. Do you remember why this started?
I do agree with that. I’ve been sticking to like small, easy-to-swallow foods, and it makes me so sad to see others genuinely enjoying their food while I’m sitting here overthinking it. I think so much that I can imagine my own throat and the food going down, and the thought of it just scares me. I don’t want it to turn into an eating disorder. I want to be able to gain weight, but unfortunately, I can’t eat the same way because I feel like small pieces of food are stuck in my throat. A few years back, I would eat popcorn, and the kernel would get stuck in the back of my throat. Ever since then, I don’t eat popcorn at all. I just stick to easy chips, but it makes me really sad. This is a normal human thing for us to eat, but my brain is so mean to me. It hurts so much because I just want to be normal again, but it has always been something my whole life.
Grisel Vega says
Hi my name is Grisel Vega and I have a fear of choking and I want to know how do I get rid of this phobia the only thing I eat is mash potatoes and oatmeal all day and I really want to eat food but I’m afraid, how do I start getting rid of this phobia?
I have suffered the same thing all of my life and have times when it gets really bad. The thing that helps me is to have someone talk me through objectively how you swallow. I then do a mental checklist to make sure that everything is okay. It is a slow process to recovery but slowly start to add things back into to your diet. For me tomato soup, yogurt and smoothies were the way I got nutrients back in.
I have suffered with this fear since I was 11 years old. I saw my mom choke on a piece of steak when I was 9, and two years later I choked on an ice cube at a friends house. The problem didn’t occur until after that, though. I remember eating popcorn in the movie theater and feeling like a piece was stuck in my throat. I didn’t choke but it scared the crap out of me. As soon as I got home that night, I realized I was having a very difficult time swallowing anything. I’m now 34 years old and have lived with it ever since.
I have to say that it fluctuates. I have a very good appetite and most of the time will be able to eat big meals to completion. There is never a moment though, when I am not completely aware of the fact that I have food in my mouth that will need to eventually be swallowed. It *never* leaves my mind.
Today, for example, it’s been acting up. I was able to eat two chicken cutlets for dinner but it was a struggle. I chewed and chewed and chewed and even resorted to swishing water around in my mouth to help me swallow. Most of the time it’s not that bad, but I have my triggers for sure. I very rarely eat steak, if ever. Seeing someone choking on tv terrifies me and even seeing pictures of people choking scares the living crap out of me. It’s a terrible, terrible fear.
The one thing that I can say is that my “swallowing problem” as I like to call it does not define who I am. This past weekend I ate a huge breakfast with bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, the whole nine yards. Yes, I was aware that I was chewing and needed to swallow, but when I get the food to be sufficiently wet and liquid-y, I swallow. I’m always the last person at the table to finish, but, man… it feels good to finish. I want to tell all of you how much I love that I am not alone in this. From the bottom of my heart I know exactly what all of you are going through. I sincerely hope that all of you are able to cope and live with this in a way where you can still enjoy the amazing food out there in your own way. I don’t think this will ever go away for any of us, but believe me when I say that it can get better. God bless all of you.
I’ve suffered with various anxieties since my late teens over 20 years ago. A fear of choking started about 7 years ago, and became very bad after a wisdom tooth extraction. It eventually went, though I don’t quite know why. I’ve had reoccurrences of the problem, and it has been very bad recently again following a dental procedure (though the problem I think has come from trying to swallow pills for pain relief and not the dental process itself). But today I appear to have turned a corner. I’ve done much research on this issue, and what seems to be working for me is to ensure my mouth is closed when I’m trying to swallow, and to press my tongue against the roof of my mouth just above my teeth. My problem is sometimes taking a breath when swallowing, particularly when drinking, so closing my mouth is obviously helping and the tongue pressing appears to help the swallowing process.
In fact I think I have a problem with mouth breathing in general (i.e. my mouth is always slightly open and I’m often breathing through it rather than through my nose). So I’m trying to make a conscious effort to breathe nasally all the time (i.e. just breathing through my nose) which is also having a calming effect on me overall. Interesting I have mild sleep apnea, and GERD, which I’ve read can also be caused by mouth breathing. Anyway, if you’re suffering from a fear of choking, liquids were my worst thing, do try the above technique.
Ever since I was little, I have battled common anxieties. When I was younger, around 6 or 7, I had to choke down huge horse pills, and it gave me anxiety of choking. I couldn’t hardly eat for months. It eventually went away and I didn’t have any problems until about 6 years later. For an entire year, from the time I woke up and even sometimes in my sleep I was short of breath. My throat was always tight. This eventually lead to social anxiety for fear that people could tell I was having a panic attack and wouldn’t understand. Again, this too subsided and I went on living a normal life. Here within the past month I had my first attack in 4 years. While driving home in a storm. This caused me to associate my attacks with driving. Obviously I have to drive to get back to school and work, so I had to drive and easily learned to manage. Here sitting at a restaurant last week, I had a panic attack out of the blue while eating dinner out with my family. I took a bite, my mouth got dry, and numb. It felt like my tongue was swelling, and I couldn’t swallow so I had to spit it out. My heart was racing and my extremities were shaking and tingling. Once we left the restaurant, the attack went away. Later that night I went to the kitchen to get a snack, but once again, I was hit with another attack while eating. Ever since then I have gotten an attack every time I try to eat. It’s embarrassing and I worry I will still have this problem next week when I have to go out of town for a conference. Does anyone have any pointers on how to deal with this or someone who is going through what I’m going through?
I am going through something similar, where I have a fear of swallowing and it usually gets worse around other people because I am afraid they will be able to tell that I’m struggling to swallow. I have had this for a couple of years now ,and I find that I have labeled certain foods as “safe” in my head ( soups, ice cream, yogurt, pureed foods etc). Whenever I go out, I order things that are very mushy or drenched in gravy, so it’s a bit easier to swallow. I also tried meditation techniques and eft tapping, and I have had several weeks where I had this phobia almost completely under control. It’s definitely anxiety-based, so the weeks where I am under the most stress tend to be the ones where it’s most difficult to swallow. So, I always keep things like nutrition shakes around to keep my weight up.
Hope things get better!
I am going through the same thing.
I am also dealing with this. It’s been two years and I’ve come a long way.
marjorie prusiecki says
A friend of mine can’t swallow liquids for fear of chocking, she has been to every place possible over the years and was told it’s all in her head. It’s getting worse, she did almost choke when she was little but never had problems until about 8 yrs ago. She is now in her mid 60s, what is this problem called?
I have choked earlier in my life and it did not scare me. Just about a week or 2 ago I slightly choked on a piece of steak. Ever since, I have had this fear of choking. My mouth gets dry when I eat and I freak out and tense up which makes swallowing even harder. Even taking small pieces doesn’t help. I don’t know how to get over this. Please help with any suggestions as possible.
My problem started with an absessed tooth that basically turned into blood poisoning. To make a long story short, I went to the ER and they put me on antibiotics and that seemed to help so they sent me home. Well shortly after, while sleeping, I was awakened by a horrific cough and was gagging and spitting up clear stuff. The doctor said my airway was clear. A few days later I got Laryngitis and the feeling that something is always in the throat. I have also been to the ENT and he prescribed me a cough medicine and said my airways was fine and I should feel better in a few days. I am also on an antibiotic for the tooth. I cannot get the tooth worked on until I can feel like I don’t have something in my throat. I have lost a good deal of weight. I drink a lot of water and about the only thing I can seem to get down is chicken broth. This is very unnerving. I want to feel normal again. Pls help. Any suggestions.