A choking feeling or constant lump in the throat can be a symptom of anxiety. This can also be described as feeling like something is constantly stuck in your throat, a tight throat, a gagging sensation, difficulty swallowing or feeling like you are suffocating. The medical term for the feeling of a lump in the throat where no true lump exists is Globus Sensation.
Why Can Anxiety Cause Choking Or A Lump In The Throat?
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline and activates the stress response called the fight, flight or freeze response.
The stress response causes the body’s muscles to tighten, which can include the muscles in the throat that help you swallow. As a result of this increase in tension in throat muscles, you might feel like you’re choking or have a lump in your throat, as well as other sensations.
Also, if you experience stress and anxiety frequently, you can develop chronic stress, also known as hyperstimulation, which is when your stress response is on high alert for a prolonged period of time, long after the perceived threat has passed. Hyperstimulation can mean that you therefore feel these throat sensations, such as a lump in your throat, frequently and for prolonged periods of time.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
The more you focus on this feeling, the more you are likely to feel it. So, the best thing to do is to switch your attention elsewhere. In order to do this, focus on your breathing, adopting anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing. This should calm your central nervous system, distract your mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate your fight, flight or freeze response allowing our rational brain to kick back in and regain a semblance of control and feel the black cloud lift.
Though this will help short-term, in order to manage anxiety and chronic stress long-term, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety and stress. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.
The feeling of a lump in the throat, as well as the other sensations discussed, can also be caused by other factors, so check with your doctor to find the root cause and therefore the best course of action.