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Can Anxiety Cause Choking?


Although there are many people around the world that suffer from anxiety, the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks are often unique to the individual and the situation that they find themselves in. One of the more obscure physical symptoms that have been reported is the sensation of choking or having a tight or constricted throat. This might sound dangerous, but it’s only the sensation of choking, not the act itself, however if this is repeatedly happening to you, consider visiting your doctors.


With a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, they’re often triggered by a release of the stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline in the caveman part of our 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 these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. This puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze. 


Why Does Anxiety Cause Choking?

Honestly, medical circles don’t have a conclusive answer on this. The normal causes of physical anxiety symptoms stem from our body’s natural reaction to a change in circulation, hyperventilation or a shift in chemical balance, however none of these affect the throat or the action of swallowing.


Instead, it’s been suggested that the sensation might be to do with the fact that when our body is in survival mode, we become hypersensitive to any changes in our body. Whilst dry mouth has been commonly associated with anxiety and anxiety attacks, choking and trouble swallowing has not, so it could be to do with us picking up on any slight changes in the body and fixating on them, worrying about them, until they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 


How Can I Stop This Symptom?

Considering we don’t know the biological process behind the symptom, it’s pretty tricky to stop the symptom itself, so as always, it’s best to consult your doctor if this is causing you concern. 


Alternatively, you can try some breathing exercises to lower your heart rate and try and calm your nervous system.


Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. 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.