All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 27 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Choking or lump in the throat feeling anxiety symptom

Choking feeling anxiety symptom description:

This anxiety symptom is often described as:

While there is no apparent reason why this choking feeling occurs (there’s nothing in your throat to cause a feeling of choking), you feel you have to or are forced to swallow, gag, or gasp for air because of some perceived blockage in your throat or airway.

This anxiety choking feeling can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel a choking sensation once and a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

This anxiety choking feeling may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This anxiety choking feeling can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

This anxiety choking feeling can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This anxiety choking feeling can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Why does anxiety cause a choking feeling in the throat?

Behaving anxiously activates the stress response. The stress response immediately causes specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat - to either fight with or flee from it - which is the reason this response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

Part of the fight or flight response changes include tightening the body's muscles so that they are more resilient to damage. This can include the muscles in the throat that help you swallow. This anxiety symptom is an example of how the throat can feel when we're anxious.

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can exhibit similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. This anxiety choking feeling is an example of why the body can experience symptoms simply from being overly stressed.

Elevated stress is commonly associated with the anxiety choking feeling when all other medical reasons have been ruled out.

Regarding the anxiety choking feeling, there is minimal danger of choking or suffocating under normal conditions, however, some people are very sensitive to their throat, and therefore caution should be exercised when eating. Chewing food thoroughly and slowly will prevent inadvertently swallowing something that may provoke someone to gag or choke.

This anxiety choking feeling can come and go, and may seem to intensify if one becomes focused on it.

How to eliminate the anxiety choking feeling in the throat symptom.

When this feeling is caused by behaving anxiously and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this feeling is caused by persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from its overly stressed state, this feeling will completely subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, it can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.

Those who have become sensitized to this sensation, may also develop a fear (phobia) associated with choking, and may require the assistance of an anxiety coach/counselor/therapist to help them alleviate their fears (those who have had a negative experience in the past where something was stuck in their throat may become hyper sensitized to the notion of choking to death).

For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated March 26, 2017.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the anxiety symptom having a choking or lump in the throat feeling.