Anxiety Causing Swallowing Problems?

(I hope I'm posting this correctly; I've been browsing this site for a while but I just made an account. Also this is going to be super long, I'm sorry!)

Hi! I'm a 24 year old female, and I've lived most of my life with severe anxiety and hypochondria due to a traumatic childhood experience. Over the last year, I've had a recurring kidney infection, which has thrown me into full panic-mode quite a bit, but it's gone now. I'm sure the doctor is sick to death of me, but that's all beside the point.

When I was having some UTI-related anxiety, I was eating some thick soup and noticed I had a bit of trouble swallowing it. Sometimes that happens to me with warm liquids, so I wasn't too concerned, but I somehow choked on it and had to wheezily gasp for breath. It was scary. Ever since then, I think about it every time I eat. It was manageable for a while, but over the last week, it's been awful. It's hard to describe, but it feels as if my throat closes up when I begin to swallow (almost like it's saying 'wait! I'm not ready to swallow yet'), and sometimes that sensation makes me feel like I'm swallowing my tongue or will choke, and I panic. It's so bad, I'm barely able to eat at all, even soft foods are extremely difficult to eat. I can normally manage cereal in the morning, but anything else is iffy at best. I've been drinking Ensure as well, but I'm terrified that I'm going to starve and not be able to do anything about it. I know this is likely caused by anxiety, but I feel powerless and don't know what to do. I started taking Buspar yesterday for this, which was prescribed during my UTI, but I'm scared nothing will help. I feel trapped and I've spent all day shaking and crying. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about, or am I going crazy?


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17 Replies

  • A very common anxiety symptom and one I have spells of quite often. The more you think about swallowing the harder it gets - I know I've been there!

    Of course I'm not a doctor - just commenting on my experience as a long-term anxiety and health anxiety sufferer.

  • Me too. I don't understand the process involved but I've had the same problem for most of my life, intermittently. There is something about anxiety which often affects the throat muscles . . . . .

    . . . . have you ever seen those cartoons where a character is suddenly faced with fear ; a classic way of depicting it is to show the character take a take an enormous gulp !

    You're obviously a tense person. Next time you are unusually tense, observe your throat & neck muscles ; I bet you'll find they're pretty tight.

    Worrying will exacerbate it so the key is relaxing . . . . . . . easier said then done I know.

    Take care x

  • Hello. I also experience this too. It is very worrying and I think it makes it worse the more you think of it. It is frightening. I am just starting to feel like this again after 6months of having no horrible symptoms of panic and anxiety.... It is a horrible

    Feeing to have.

  • Hi like the other comments I too had a terrible experience with " throat anxiety" and I know how you feel it is do frightening if it's the first time experiencing it. 6 years ago I felt like I chocked on a bit of pizza then every time I ate it felt like my throat would close and that my food was stuck, I stopped eating all together and relyed on ensure drinks. I lost so much weight, went down to 5 stone! And that made it all so much more unbearable being so weak all the time. It only lasted a few months for me and when my medication settled I got better.

    Only to get anxiety back 6 years later and the dreaded "throat anxiety" this time I knew it only to well and after a week or so I told myself that this is just an effect of my anxiety and although it's unpleasnt my food will not get stuck and i will not choke. I just chew more and drink water with meals and relax and read something while I eat and I get though my meals then think afterwords oh I ate that no problem.

    See if this will work for you,

    Take care x

  • Mine started with an h. Pylori infection which produced severe reflux. I had a terrible time swallowing food and having some get stuck in my throat. I too switched to Ensure because I was afraid to eat. I'm being tested for hormonal imbalance

  • Because I'm having debilitating anxiety. I have trouble eating, but I try to read or focus on other things while I eat and can eat portions of food, now. I always have water handy, though with food (sorry. I hit submit before I finished)

  • Yep I have done this even when to have an ultrasound on my throat and thyroid

  • I have been having problems swallowing now for about 4 weeks. I am so scared, I don't know if it's in my head or if there is really something more wrong then what my ENT told me. He diagnosed me with GERD and have been on meds now for 5 weeks. Along with this I have been experiencing bad anxiety which I have never really had. Now when I try to swallow It's like there is this hesitation and it takes me a few trys sometimes to swallow my spit. I also have this thick like saliva feeling in my throat sometimes and then other times it feels so dry that I can barley swallow. Then when I do pain follows down my right neck. I am so scared, is there anyone out there that has felt like this. Can GERD cause all of this?

  • I'm not sure if you're feeling better; but this sounds like phagophobia ( fear of eating) , usually caused by stress. You are not alone. I've been experiencing this for years; I have good days and bad. Medication has helped. I've heard that cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful. I'm thinking about trying that.

  • Hi.. I've just read your thread and I have exactly all the same symptoms as you had. I could of wrote it.. i am just wondering if you found a cure please. I have been frightened to eat for over 5 week.. thank you, any advice would be greatly received.

  • I choked taking a pill about a yr ago and water was aspirated (went in my lung). I have a fear of drinking fluids now as well as eating anything. I've lost over 50lbs.

  • I notice I have trouble eating & recently had to throw food away because of it . I was drinking something & while the drink was going down , felt it ache while going all the way down & it's irritating . Then I get pressure in the back of my head . I burp often too while eating & drinking , because I get hungry lol I eat quick . I'm not sure if it's GERD or anxiety or a mix of the two. You're not only in this sweetie. I'm in the same age range as you too! I hope you get better . If you eventually learn of any tips on how to eat better while having this anxiety , let me know ..message me & if I find out tips , I'll tell you the same :)

  • I have been living with this for exactly 3 years. I have done many tests and the doctors can't seem to find anything wrong with me. It happened once when I was 17-18 for a couple of months but now I'm afraid that it's here to stay, maybe :)

    It is really difficult to find information on the subject or get a clear diagnosis as there are a lot of illnesses that can cause this problem of swallowing. To name a few I have read up - MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Parkinson's Disease, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Thyroid Gland problems ....and many more. So, how do you rule out which it is? There are tests you can get done for each one, but who has a lifetime, right?

    Don't mean to scare you further. It most probably is anxiety and stress. However, I don't plan to use and drugs given some of their side-effects. So exercise and lots of physical activity is my list of things to do, along with meditation and vitamin B complex.

    This is a debilitating thing and I know it has ruined my social life as I can no longer go out to lunch or dinner with friends and family. It's embarrassing and not pretty at times as I often have to spit the food out in my hand.

    I wish you all the best and hope you find your way with it.

  • I am suffering from this as we speak. Throat an anxiety on top of everything else. For the last 8 weeks Everytime eat it feels like it's getting stuck or had gotten stuck.

    I have had a scope and my doctor said my esophagus and everything is 100% perfect.

    I also did the same thing bought a bunch of ensure drinks. I have just about had it with anxiety and stress. It's ruining my life and my wallet

  • I've also been suffering from this for about 6 weeks. Endoscopy and swallowing tests all normal. It's good to know I am not alone in this but I don't know how to control the stress and anxiety. It's taken over my life

  • I decided 9 days ago to start prozac. Even tho it's not working yet I'm holding hope that it will all work out. I've started probiotics, b12 supplements and raw organic. apple cider vinegar and multivitamin to keep myself healthy during this process.

    I wish you all good health.

  • Does anyone have difficulty drinking water, milk, etc due to anxiety/tension?

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