Anxiety Can Cause Difficulty Swallowing
One of the biggest fears that people have when they suffer from anxiety is that their anxiety symptoms are not anxiety symptoms at all. They worry that they may have a health problem that may not have been discovered yet, and that doctors have been misdiagnosing them with anxiety for years.
That’s a big problem for those suffering from anxiety, because when you’re worried that you have something more than anxiety, you’ll find that your anxiety increases every day. You become more attuned to your body, and you start to worry more about your health, increasing your risk for anxiety attacks. This is a common problem of those that have difficulty swallowing.
Is Anxiety the Reason it’s Hard to Swallow?
There are some illnesses and diseases that make it hard to swallow. But difficulty swallowing is a common anxiety symptom, especially during anxiety attacks. It’s important to note that trouble swallowing may be a sign of other disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. While these disorders don’t cause anxiety on their own, those with anxiety often find that these disorders contribute to further anxiety.
Anxiety and Body Consciousness
Trouble swallowing is a frightening anxiety symptom, and one that doesn’t make much sense to those that struggle with it. Why would nervousness make it hard to swallow?
Yet there are several reasons that trouble swallowing occurs, and they all relate to a common problem for those with anxiety – an over-sensitivity to their body.
Most of what your body does is automatic. You breathe without thinking about it. Your hand grasps things without thinking about each finger. And you also swallow automatically, without moving the muscles in your throat yourself.
But when you struggle with anxiety – particularly anxiety attacks – your mind focuses too much on things that used to be automatic, and forces them into your consciousness. You still have the ability to swallow, but when you swallow it no longer feels like a natural reflex, because your mind is too focused on how it feels.
Sometimes You’re Not Having Trouble
Similarly, when you have anxiety, you may not have trouble swallowing at all. You may simply not need to swallow but feel you need to swallow and be more aware when you’re unable to get your muscles to work properly. Something has to trigger the swallowing reflex. If you feel that you need to swallow when you don’t, and you try to swallow, you may simply be unable to despite nothing being wrong.
Yet when you have anxiety, it can feel as though something is wrong. To those with anxiety, the difference between being unable to swallow and simply not swallowing is very slim, and the fear that develops very real. Also, don’t forget that your body is very tense when you’re suffering from anxiety, and this may cause problems with the swallowing reflex as well.
Long Term Anxiety Reduction
Difficulty swallowing is a symptom of suffering from anxiety, so on its own it is difficult to stop without some type of intervention. You’ll need to find a way to stop experiencing panic attack and anxiety symptoms overall if you want to swallow more easily, and that means that you’ll need to control your anxiety in a way that won’t allow it to come back.
First, always visit your doctor. While trouble swallowing is very often an anxiety symptom, you’ll want to be sure that you’re not suffering from acid reflux or any of the other disorders that can contribute to the issue. Those types of disorders can be treated separately, and knowing that you do or don’t have them is an important part of controlling anxiety.
You’ll then need to commit to an effective anxiety reduction platform. One based on your anxiety symptoms so that you will be able to experience less overall anxiety.Leave a reply
I have hsd problems swallowing since end of May , I have had camera down and they found nothing wrong every time something touches the top of my mouth Imwant to get rid of it , I can only eat sandwiches carefully, I have problems eating most things like chicken, salad , chips fruit , seeing mental nurse Thursday , can an antidepresant help to bring my swallow back as I am suffering terriblyReply
i am same but had endoscopy and no problems and can now swallow again – i do have bit of discomfort but fineReply
Hi Christine, hope you are doing better. I’m having the same problem. Am having an endoscope by the end of August. Would like to know if you got better.Reply
I’m so glad I found this link . I have horrible anxiety but I’m thinking worst case scenario about having trouble swallowing and relating it to als and I am so terrified! Did this concern you?Reply
You guys aren’t alone. During Covid in June 2020 I started developing swallowing issues. I had a doctor who didn’t even listen to me at all and just named it as globus pharyngeus completely ignoring that I have developed anxiety from the pandemic. I switched doctors, had an endoscopy done but nothing related to my issue with swallowing issues. I started getting worse and I’d stop eating completely if a bit of food got stuck in my throat I was so scared. I got all flushed and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I’ve had dieticians to help me with my weight gain and a consultant who all believe it’s anxiety. Funny enough my mum said from the start that’s what it is (mums know everything). I felt so alone and stupid because my anxiety is basically trying to trick me into believing I can’t eat properly, it’s terrifying, I think I need therapy as medication is not a long term solution. I just want to enjoy eating foodReply
Hey I have the same exact issue as you, I hope you see this comment. Any updates??Reply
Readinf your comment felt like it was me writing it. I’m having THE SAME symptoms as you. I am getting mental health to see if dealing with the anxiety helps. Thank youReply
i had (have) exactly the same thing. I started getting general anxiety when i couldn’t see anyone then i developed a problem swallowing which turned into a fear. i would constantly feel like every-time i eat i have something stuck in my throat which would in turn lead to a panic attack. I can eat most foods ow but at frankly embarrassingly slow rate. I miss enjoying food in the way i used to.Reply
Also if you have any methods of getting over this problem i would really like to hear it as it has completely taken over my lifeReply
I had regular panic attacks after having covid in March 2022.
I had repetitive sore throat feeling alonside the feelings of shortness of breath and severe anxiety until August 2022 when I completely lost my ability to eat. I developed fear I’d choke, a feeling of a lump in my throat, Regurgitation and excessive saliva, nightmares, muscle and bone pain, nausea, IBS symptoms, continuous burping, new floaters in left eye, coughing up mucus, headaches, stomach pain, oesphagus spasms, unintentional weight loss. The thickest solid food i can manage is mash.
Barium swallow was normal but they tested liquids and not foods when liquids are fine to consume but foods won’t go down and feel stuck.
My low mood and anxiety has become unstable. I honestly feel trapped by this.Reply
Hi sweetheart, I’m writing to everyone, but your comment on particular stuck out to me, let me tell you about how powerful the mind is, and how it controls everything. I use to have issues swallowing and as a result lost weight this issue was brought on by my anxiety. Anxiety is designed to convince you that you are not well, this applies to swallowing, our brain if we let it, can convince us that we cannot swallow even though there is nothing at all wrong with you. The thing that has to always be addressed 1st is our fears, when you address your fears the panic leaves. But If you don’t the issue will persist. I am wishing you and everyone the best!!!!Reply
Hi! I feel like I was reading my own journal entry when I read your comment. I am so grateful for you. I would love to communicate . My name is Bri. I have an eating disorder and severe panic anxiety disorder. I went for an endoscopy and was also ‘cleared.’ They let me walk out when I was trying to find answers. I can relate so much to what you shared. Validation for mental illness is not easy to get, some people can’t give it because they can’t understand. I just wanted you to know you’re not alone 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org Briana BurgesonReply
Hello I have the same problem, I’ve noticed that my anxiety gave me gi problems and I have trouble swallowing as well. I’m terrified of taking medications because I don’t want to get used to them, but at thisReply
Moment I have no other option, I hope we all find peace and return to Normal god bless everyone in this page ! You’re not alone
Omg wow I love this page yes I found it just like everybody else probably, by googling the symptom. I have severe anxiety which was exacerbated by the pandemic/quarantine. God bless everyone here and we aren’t alone!! Burgesbl01@gmail.comReply
I have experienced this wiht anxiety, but I also have Achalasia. If you legit have food and liquid get stuck, food is slow, painful spasms in chest, you need a manometry. A functional swallowing test. An endsoscpy will NOt show swallowing abnomralities. however, it is very distinct and different than this anxiety behavior.Reply
I am always swallowing air and burping all the time and sometimes I can’t eat had an endoscopy every thing was fine got a hiatus herniaReply
Sometimes I can’t even swallow water it comes back up only sometimes it happens just out of the blueReply
Has anyone worked through this? My issues with dysphagia came a few months after my first extreme panic attack. It’s been over 3 years since I’ve been able to properly swallow. And though I love food, it’s no longer fun to eat socially as i’m embarassed by how slow and how little I eat.Reply
I just developed dysphagia ;( its so terrible. I developed it i guess because i had unlimited panic attacksReply
Hi, I have this issue too, it started half a year ago but now with therapy, antidepressants and exposure therapy with an SLP who keeps reinforcing there is nothing physically wrong with me I’ve gotten a lot better! Do try therapy! I know it’s awful but hang in there, things can get better!Reply
What is exposure therapy?Reply
I suffered from this as a child. I never was diagnosed properly and it was always chalked up to be a mystery illness. Doctors could never find a physical reason for my inability to swallow. I thought I was going to die of starvation in 6th grade- a terrifying reality to believe. And my parents never took me to see a therapist. I eventually started eating solid foods after about a year of struggling to eat.
I had no idea how severe my anxiety was until I went to High School where my panic attacks began.
Now I’m in my mid 30’s and I’m going to a therapist who specializes in anxiety. It’s making a huge difference in my life- I really wish I had seen someone sooner.
I live a very normal life now- Although I do still struggle with this in times of extreme anxiety. The difference is, now I know what most of my triggers are. And I know soup is always something I can eat if it I feel like it’s happening again!
It takes a lot of time and personal work, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.Reply
I had terrible anxiety as a child. My swallowing problem started in either in 5th or 6th grade. I thought I was going to die of starvation. I finally was able to eat. My parents didn’t understand. I was so afraid of choking. I had a verbally abusive mother. I think now that was how it started. But as an adult I’ve had problems swallowing when I’ve gone through any kind of trauma. I’m now in my 70s and have had trouble swallowing liquids for the past 6 years. My parents both passed away within 5 months of each other 8 years ago and it was very traumatic for me. It wasn’t long before I started having problems swallowing liquids. I think it’s psychological but I don’t know. I just had a modified barium swallow test and was told I have tremors in my tongue, soft palate and jaw. They referred me to a neurologist but I can’t get an appointment until the end of January. It’s a frustrating problem. Don’t know what I’ll find out. When I had severe pain with kidney stones back in 2005 and went to the ER and had to drink IV contrast, I had a problem drinking the liquid. After I left the hospital, my swallowing problem disappeared. Now I’m having a terrible problem swallowing liquids, but I have no problem swallowing solid food.Reply
Hi what meds did/do you takeReply
It’s been 4.5 for me with no end in sight. I feel your pain. Have you ever gotten an "official" diagnosis to research more? I’ve struggled with thatReply
I have been dealing with this for almost 3 years and just realized this past week its panic attacks. Its very scary. I hope I can get some help ASAP.Reply
I’m an old fart probably older than most of you at 71 but in pretty good shape! I don’t smoke and drink minimally. But I am super stressed right now and suffer from moderate depression and definite anxiety. I feel like sometimes food gets stuck at the base of the throat or the top of the esophagus! Sounds like you guys but could it begin at my age? I had a endoscopy 12 months ago for other GI like gastritis and having another Tuesday. I’m worried! 🙏🙏 pleaseReply
Think positive! I know it is hard, because I am having a lot of issues trying to apply it myself. But, our emotional is very powerful!! If it was something serious they would tell you already🙏🏻😘Reply
This article really does a great job at describing how focused my mind is on my autonomic nervous system and other reflexes that are automatic. I never realized how focused I was on those things. But I did know I was having problems swallowing. But perhaps it’s because I’m so focused on them.Reply
Thanks for this article.
I hope I can learn how to cope better with this anxiety. I hate it.