Nervous retching/gagging. Anyone one else experience this?

Hello all. This probably sounds like a bit of a weird one, but has anyone else experienced gagging/retching due to anxiety/worry? I have suffered from social anxiety (and mild depression) for the past 15 years. I have always been a worrier with a lack of self confidence (but a pro at hiding it!) and for the most part I have learned to deal with the majority of my symptoms through self help, counselling and medication (I have recently started a new 20mg course of Citalopram). But the one thing that has always remained constant over the years, and is the complete bane of my social life, is gagging/retching when I am nervous or worrying. Even though I have to deal with it, it has at times been a real burden and affected certain aspects of my life massively. The main reason for this is a vicious circle I tend to get myself into. When I feel nervous or anxious about something I will cough and start to get the feelings of gagging in my throat. Of course if I am about to do something social (i.e. go into a meeting or an interview, the cinema, or I am somewhere public) I immediately begin panicking about gagging and being sick in public, which makes the symptoms even worse. I uncontrollably gag/retch and cough. The main issue with this is that I find I cannot do certain social things, especially get on tubes, buses and planes because I automatically start to worry about gagging and making a fool of myself in public, which will actually start the physical retching and coughing. Of course this usually then ensures a panic attack about the whole thing, so to avoid this I tend to not do these things. I was recently asked to go to France on a business trip, but the thought of getting on a plane on my own with the inevitable process of my nervous gagging was far too much so I made an excuse. Another recent event was attending a martial arts course one Saturday. I was so nervous about it that I was 30 mins late due to retching. I am rarely sick, but I do retch quite violently at times and it can last for quite some time. I’ve tried things like sucking sweets, chewing gum, drinking water etc... but as it’s a psychological thing that is triggering something physical I am not sure how to stop this. I was wondering if anyone else had experienced such an odd aspect of social anxiety/panic?

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  • It sounds much like a nervous twitch only in your throat (only way I could put it) . In my opinion things like this require some meds and relaxation classes/ and maybe hypnotism would help...

    All of course with medical guidance..........so sorry, it must be a terrible experience, i wish you well

  • Hi ya I've had something similar for years where I would cough and cough thinking I'm going to be sick but I never am I've had anxiety and panics for a long time like you I could hide it till the last few years but recently iv come to the conclusion this anxiety is one of those things that keeps prodding you to remind you it's there it's annoying and everytime you react to it it feeds it so let it come and don't react let it prod and poke to get your attention then get on with something you want to do away from it it's surprising but it'll go away when it gets the idea it doesn't control your life it may never fully go but the breaks from it will get longer and your life will get better I hope so I thought it would never get any better but it has a lot better I hope that for you too good luck. Mel

  • I cannot begin to tell you how well you have just described what's been happening to me! I totally understand what your saying, I used to get it really bad all the time when i was around people. I remember Times when I was in school or college, and just the thought of being in a room with a bunch of people made me start feeling physically sick. Sometimes I even skipped lessons just for fear of the teacher not letting me leave, Which made me feel even more nervous because I didn't want to fall behind in my work, and I got trapped in the cycle of 'If i go i'll be sick, if i miss it it will be twice as hard to go the next time'. The thought of me walking in and everyone looking at me and asking 'Where were you last lesson?' and ' Oh stop bunking off' terrified me. Eventually I psyked myself up enough to go and talk to the teacher, and he didn't even question it. He said 'If you ever need to go, you just get up and leave'. Ever since i never felt sick in his lessons, because I knew he understood. I'm going to ask you to do the hardest thing and do the same; talk to people about it, its really surprising how open people feel about it. The more people I've told about my social anxiety, the less i've felt it (: I just think' If i suddenly start gagging and feeling sick, They all know that its not because of them, and they all understand'. It makes them feel like you really value them as a friend as well, And just like if someone told you they had anxiety, they will generally do everything in there power to make sure you're okay (: hope I helped xx

  • Hi, wow, i thought it was just me. Though I havent suffered with the retching and gagging for a while, (possibly due to the 20mg Citalopram I'm on) it was totally embarrassing when I bumped into an ex boyfriend in a nightclub. My friend had to literally guide me to the bathroom because I couldnt stop retching. It happened constantly in my teen years - my first day of college, driving test, getting ready to go out and be sociable. i would get so nervous i'd start coughing and retching until it passed. Every now and then I still get it with a bad bout of anxiety

    and stay in the bathroom with my head out the window to get air.

    Maybe the Citalopram has lessened it for me and so hopefully it will help you too.x

  • Thank you for the replies all. Much appreciated. :)

  • Hi chopper. Ive just stumbled on this page having just had a similar experience that has got me worried so I hope you're able to read this. I relate fully to your description having had the exact same problems in all the situations you've mentioned since adolescence, so pretty much the bulk of my life. Same with Jaimie through most of school and dreading certain lessons, morning assemblies and meal times due to the 'locked in' effect and inability to escape while fretting to the point of feeling sick with worry. Its varied in symtoms but always been social situations as the root cause. On the surface I come across as collected and reasonably confident but a mess underneath. Suffice to say its never cured itself and continued into adult life where the anticipation of social events (work meetings being a prime example) will get me worked up for days. Its had a debilitating effect on all aspects of life and dictated the way I do things, making crap excuses where I really cant go through with things.

    Im worried because it seems to have got worse to the point that i now assess the most trivial of social situations like sharing a car journey with someone. The internal conversations start me off and wont go away until Im in my own space and can calm down. Recently Ive been retching, on occasion being physically sick which does actually alleviate it. This never used to happen and I hope its not going to run away with me. Its totally irrational and I just wish it'd go away because life is getting pretty bloody miserable. I dont want to drone on but would really like to chat with you or anyone else going through a similar rollercoaster ride in private. I appreciate it could have a negative impact, but in line with what jaimie says, Ive always found sharing problems and admitting them more consoling, with a maybe a solution at the end of it... Well we can hope.

  • Hi All,

    I too share these exact experiences and symptoms - you guys have really well described what has been my life for as far as I can remember. I started having these problems back in junior school. I have avoided certain social and "locked in" situations. My biggest fear/trigger is irrational; it is not the environment itself, but the fear of having an anxiety attack in that environment, which causes its onset and if I cannot "escaped" I retch/vomit. I have found chewing a sweet in the onset helps - have you guys tried anything like this?

    I am an engineer/scientist and have my own company with a lot of resources, my personal mission is to find/develop a monitor and/or prevention device - would you guys like to be involved? If so message me.

    I would like to keep this discussion/support going either publicly or privately.

    Many Thanks,

    Dr Microman

  • Hi I am Dave from Singapore. May I ask if you have any progress solving the stress induced gagging problems?

  • Hello all :) I just found this site and signed up. I have the exact same anxiety symtoms with nervous stomach and retching/gagging and all the rest. The only way for me to feel better is to vomit a bit. I've had this ever since I was 17 and now I'm 28 and nothing has changed. I feel like it has taken over my social life, before I was like this I was a very happy outgoing person and the life of the party and really want to get back to my old self. I've even missed out many opportunities in my life with making out with new woman i've met. Because I can hardly talk to them from feeling nervous and sick and I would even go to the toilet to try and vomit to feel better while on a date. It's only a temporary relief and I really hate having to do it. I use to take medication but i felt it wasn't working as I would still get a nervous stomach. I've lately been researching on the net and came across a couple of things there was magnesium tablets, lemon balm and this orama theraphy scent that was on oprah that you just put in your nose and then you just smell that scent all day that helps you take your mind off everything. I haven't tried these methods myself but I'm willing to give it a try and also plan to start exercising regulary and even yoga that many others have suggested.

    I'm going overseas with in 2 months and it will be my 1st time on a plane and I know this could be the worst experience in my life if I can't make myself feel calm and comfortable before I get on the plane. I went to a theme park last year it was my 1st time since a kid and geez it was a terrible experience. I felt sick and retching/gagging because I wasn't use to it. I really hope we can all be 100% cured and live a normal life like everyone else and I really feel like I've wasted many years of my life and opportunities that I will never get again. Unless I can get rid of this anxiety for good and then I'll make up for lost time. This anxiety has really dulled my personality because I don't really socialise that much in person and I feel like I've kinda lost how to speak to people and keep a conversation going. I can talk on the net for ages to people as I feel more comfortable but in person my social skills are really bad. Today I'm going to buy these vitams called Swisse magnesium and Swisse mood. They both help for nervous tension and anxiety, so I'm gonna give it a go and I'll report back in a week and let you all know if they helped at all. Because I consider my anxiety out of a scale of 1-10 it would definitely be a 10. This is also my 1st time telling someone about my problem and haven't done any counselling or therapy etc. I feel a lot better getting this off my chest and knowing that I'm not alone here in this world with this problem and hope we can all find a good permanent cure together :) I know of the anxiety is caused by thoughts and the brain and the stomach is linked. So we really need to find a way to be calm and comfortable with no worries as it our weakness to our anxiety and feeds it making it worse.

  • Hi JS.

    You sound like me, have a lot to offer on a conscious level but the inner thoughts reduce you to a bumbling wreck and you want to escape and hide. Blushing, self consciousness and fear of public disgrace have ruined many opportunities that Ive been given. Even my career has been steered due to this nonsense.

    Anyway, felt compelled to reply because I also have recently suffered the dating nerves. I was really keen on an ex and so excited about our first restaurant date, everything was perfect, except for me. How I contained my discomfort at that dinner table, Ill never know, but had to get up and go to the toilet at one point because I was so close to retching. I wasnt even sure if I was going to make it. Not the best way to impress a date I think you'll agree. Eventually the wine kicked in and I was able to calm down and enjoy the remainder of the eve. If I had been driving though, well, I'd hate to imagine.

    On another first date my fidgeting was noticed & commented on, but I passed it off as nerves and laughed. It wasnt your average nerves typical on such occasions at all, just my phobic thoughts eating away inside.

    I have found that xanax (not available on prescription in UK) is just a wonder drug where you're prepared for such events. I try not to depend on them though, reserving them for the worst situations, but having them in your pocket alone can act as a comforter. Its the occasions where youre not prepared that I have no answer for :(

  • Hi all. Firstly, apologies that I haven't sent any feedback to any of you for kindly replying to my post. I haven't been online for a while now, so I promise it hasn't been out of ignorance. :)

    Selfishly (and I am sure you feel the same) it is comforting to read that I am not alone with this slightly unusual symptom of GAD. You do tend you question how freak-like you are for gagging when nervous. I truly believed I was alone with this.

    Since I posted the above I am well and truly into a course of citalopram (20mg). It's been 6 months now and I can honestly say that they have really helped with my anxiety and my nervous retching. That said I am far from cured, but every little helps (are we ever 100% cured from these things?) I think it would be great to keep up the communication and support one another. This is something that has dominated my life for many years and so I would love to chat to those few and far who also suffer from this sometimes debilitating symptom. Hang in there guys and lets chat! You're not alone. :)

  • Hi everyone.

    I am a dietitian, work at a hospital. I had a patient today, who was diagnosis with cyclic vomiting syndrome. I am not well educated on this particular syndrome. But today this patient, had been retching for at least 8 hrs straight, I heard this person the whole time I was working. I had seen this person stick finger in throat. So I was not sure if this was bulimia/purging or happening without infliction by themselves. I have never seen something so sad, and I have seen a lot. So I researched and found these websites. To was that you on a forum years ago when you were 17. I am so sorry you are having this problem, as well for all of you. My thoughts is this is definitely anxiety and usually medical tests come back normal. Do whatever you can to help with anxiety, medications, therapy, accupunture, chiropractor.

    the only thing to fear is fear itself, so conquer it. These stories help me know that this is a real issue, yes its all in your head, but the mind body experience is so powerful. You are not a public disgrace, really every just wants to help. Medical professionals may not know the answer, we are only human and can't know everything, but be patient.

    Why does one fear the anxiety or the retching, its ok to have anxiety, it not shameful, its normal, its when its out of control, that the anxiety causes problems. Learn to cope and relax the anxiety and fear, and the problem will go away.

    Make a choice, this will not ruin my life. Everyone is strong enough, just may not know you are, but you have it in you. I say these things from experience. My own anxiety is so much better with medicine and relaxation techniques, and doing things that make me happy.

  • Well at least we're not alone. Like other folk have posted, this is me and my life, and has been for over 20 years. Sometimes I retch for no reason, sometimes it is stress. I retch after sex, for flip's sake, isn't my body supposed to be awash with feelgood chemicals? Oh well at least it isn't "during". I feel worst about 11am on Monday mornings in a work-week (just after our 30 minute company meeting). But it can vary wildly. I've given up looking for pattern, things I might have eaten (or not eaten). I don't drink much, no drugs, don't smoke. I do like my food but it has to be in an environment I feel safe. Going into the cold can make it appear. Getting too hot can also trigger it, though less severely.

    I wish I had a solution. Doctors have diagnosed (I paraphrase slightly) "unluckyitis", after I've endured endoscopies (nothing to see, just a slight irritation) and blood tests (all normal). Actually, coughing masks and can suppress the less aggressive heaves, to the extent my doctor treated me for asthma at one point. My GP is dismissive now, I've all but given up on them for fear they will just offer valium zombiehood. Drugging myself might well reduce my capacity for work, I might not be able to drive (boy that would complicate childcare), and it could skittle my love life which (despite the post-coital retchiness) is one of the real treats that keeps me going.

    The only thing that helps is chewing gum, but it doesn't always work, and I now have "gum anxiety" - a frantic scrabble around my pockets looking for the magic packet that may save me. As has been pointed out, the worry over throwing up takes a life of its own. I am pre-occupied with how sick I feel all the time. It breaks my heart that I daren't go swimming with my kids (mouthful of water = instant retch), or drinking with friends. Theme parks I used to love, now I can't even go near them (my children don't understand why the change). Holidays become arduous at times. I spend so much energy fighting this war in my head that I often don't have as much as I'd like for those around me; it doesn't give a good impression of me. And yet what do I tell them? This condition has no name. I can't tell my work for that reason - I dread being sent away on business and will probably have to 'fess up if (when) I am.

    I was considering trying CBT. Which won't cure the problem, but might help chip away at the neuroses which have clearly appeared. At £65 a session though I'm not sure I can afford that sort of thing when it isn't clear that it will achieve anything at all. Meditation? I have tried, but my head really likes to churn. I find it hard to settle.

    Still: I push myself to get to work, to socialize as much as I can, to go out and do things (play drums in a band, I do laser shows for a Pink Floyd tribute act - hopefully toilets are close and not mobbed). I've just decided to play drums in a school show, and have lots of songs to learn in about a month, so I am feeling particularly on the edge at the moment. So if anyone finds a cure for unluckyitis, I'd love to know.

  • Hello there, I know this post is old, but I created an account as I wanted to share my experience with finding a method of control with the help of a knowledgeable neuropsychiatrist. I suffer from panic disorder and this is my main physical symptom brought on, no doubt, by the disorder as they are super highly linked. When I am highly anxious, or not-so-highly anxious, but just anxious in general, I gag and/or retch and it can be nearly continuous and life-altering if not treated.

    I have been suffering with this symptom, the most unique of many that are more commonly experienced for those who suffer from panic disorder (or generalized anxiety disorder), since I was a young child and I am now 30 year-old male.

    Fortunately, intervention happened early on in life and I was placed on paroxetine/Paxil when I was a young teen because I fell totally dysfunctional and couldn't handle day-to-day activities without immense impairment (read: I couldn't function in society). Paroxetine took away some of the symptoms, although it didn't place me into remission. I was placed into remission some five and a half years ago after a compassionate neuropsychiatrist recognized the symptoms and slowly weaned me off of paroxetine/Paxil while titrating me up on clonazepam/Klonopin and pregabalin/Lyrica. The combination is still working well more than five years later.

    I hope that posting this helps someone who is suffering from this symptom discuss alternative medications with their physicians after other methods fail to work should the condition be chronic. Remember, no medication is efficacious for all, and unless in a complete crisis, starting with a dose dose and titrating slowly is best to avoid overmedicating and to avoid possible side effects brought upon by a perhaps unnecessarily high dose. Talk to your doctor, though. There is no reason for unnecessary suffering. If he or she won't listen or doesn't take your concerns seriously enough, find a doctor who will.

    Feel free to contact me should you need support!

  • I cough for a variety of reasons. I cough to the point of gagging. 6 months ago, I began to cough to the point of gagging every 1/2 hour, 24/7. Little sleep. This went on for 14 weeks. I was fortunate that I wasn't working - I'm retired. Acid reflux? Yes. But I've been easily coughing all of my life, especially when upset. Anxiety disorder all my life? Yes. Finally an ENT is working with me and gave me a med called Tramadol. A mild narcotic or something. She just said to experiment with it, so I did. At first, I didn't take it often enough - it made me sleepy. I got a lot better, but now all better. Then I gave in and took it about every 8 hours (it only lasts 4-6 hours), and am almost recovered. I am also on Welbutrin and Celexa. So if your life is severely impacted with coughing that goes to gagging, go see an ENT and ask about this. If they are up-to-date, they will also ask you to go through speech therapy. At least for me, there is hope now. My situation was so bad that people would stare at me in stores and I was in bed a lot because I was always exhausted from no sleep. Now I know that if it starts again, I can turn to Tramadol, as long as I can plan my schedule for being sleepy. I do think that the sedating quality hits me harder in the beginning of taking it, and lessens over the days. But if I haven't taken it for a while, the same thing happens again.

  • I have lived with what you have exactly described my entire life, starting from age 4 yrs old. I am now 49 and can tell you that Paxil changed my life!! It got rid of that choking feeling and there's no gag reflux. 20 mg should work but you can increase the dosage. Good luck my friend.

  • Does Paxil really help?

  • My aunt has this also she cant control her gagging when outside the doctor cant seem to get to the cause of it she has had it since she was a child. She has took medication for anxiety and depression but yet she still gets it. it is hard.

  • I know how u feel as I exactly the same, thankfully now with heaps of walking & Venlafaxine 375 mg & 25mg of Topiramate I am better, Topiramate is for anti migraines but I accidently left off for a week & my heart was banging hard & I was super stressed, must to something to help nerves as I've had PTSD due to some major issues in my life, & gone way over the top with sleeping pills, but came off them too, I even spewed when only 17 getting contacts in @ optometrists, nobody believed, my mum nearly died, Dad thought it hilarious, poor man grabbed the rubbish bin & up stairs one contact lens in & I get car sick, 1st time I @ chiropractor I spewed outside, yet thankfully when having 2 wisdom teeth out & no IV or sedative pills not sick, don't ask me why, & can handle needles & blood tests fine,  

  • I don't necessarily have social anxiety at least i don't think i do. But i sometimes start to gag and cough and very soon if i don't clam get so nauseous that normally it means a trip to the nearest bathroom. this occurs if i get to excited about something. For instance if you get something new or presents that kind of thing it's kinda problematic. Can occur for me if I'm also hyped for a trip ect. basically anything that get me to for lack of thinking of a better term happy.

  • Thank you for posting this! I'm 40 now and it's been happening as long as I can remember..My entire family knows and kinda laughs it off that I've gotta throw up before anything...high school swim meets interviews gatherings my wedding, the birth of my children, Christmas time and definitely before flying or traveling...If I over think I start gagging and retching and throw up...I am on 15mg of Lexapro but it still happens...It's not the end of the world in my case, but it's nice to know I'm not alone... currently I'm surprising my Husband with a skydiving Birthday gift and I can't stop gagging...I'm not even going to jump but my nerves are a hot mess over it...Today I goggled this and found all of you with the same issues...

  • Has anyone found a cure yet? It be really great if someone did. I have a college tour in a week and I'm super nervous. I don't want to gag in front of everyone. It would be embarrassing.

  • I have this all the time and its taking over my life . Iv had to run out of shops before because it was that bad iv booked a docs app tomoz, i cannot take it no more

    I think i got mine because of smoking weed in my garden it was my safe place where i could relax and did it for so long that if i whent anywhere else i would feel the enxiety . I hope it get it sorted tomorrow

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