Anxiety or a Health Problem?

Feels Like Something is Stuck in My Throat. Is it Anxiety or a Health Problem?

Anxiety and stress can have a profound effect on your body, and one such effect is inflammation, caused by the activation of your autonomic nervous system. Depending on the type of anxiety you experience, that inflammation can feel very severe. When you suffer from anxiety, your body is constantly stimulating your sympathetic nervous system. This leads to an increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and muscle tension, and in some people that muscle tension can cause the throat to feel inflammation. In many people, that feeling is described as a “lump in the throat” or a “throat knot.”  When anxiety causes the lump in your throat, it isn’t dangerous. But when you have anxiety, it can feel very frightening. In some cases you may even feel as though you’re choking, or that you’re at risk of choking, and the anxiety may make it hard to swallow.

If you’re concerned that your knot may be the result of a physical health problem, rather than a mental health problem, you should consider seeing a doctor. In very rare cases, a lump in the throat may be something more serious, such as a type of cancer. Or it may be something less serious but still health-related, like gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), tonsillitis, pharyngitis, and postnasal drip. Interestingly, some believe that anxiety may contribute to GERD.

Some signs that it may be anxiety include:

  • There is no clicking sound or severe pain when swallowing
  • The experience comes and goes, and is more common when you’re feeling high anxiety
  • You have suffered from a panic attack or recent very stressful situation

In these cases, it’s still possible for the cause to be health related. It’s also possible for stress and anxiety to cause a constant lump in the throat that doesn’t go away. When anxiety causes a lump in the throat, it’s not dangerous and it cannot stop you from breathing or prevent you from swallowing. It may feel as though you need to swallow multiple times to get the food down, but it’s still just anxiety, and it can be treated by curing yourself of that anxiety.

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