Choking Feeling Anxiety Symptoms

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 19, 2021

choking feeling anxiety symptoms

Having a choking feeling or a lump in the throat feeling is a common symptom of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role if you have a choking feeling, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including having a choking feeling or lump in the throat feeling.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and a choking or a lump in the throat feeling.

Choking feeling anxiety symptom description:

This anxiety symptom is often described as:

  • Choking feeling in the throat.
  • Choking feeling when eating.
  • Choking feeling anxiety.
  • Choking sensation.
  • Anxiety lump in throat.
  • Feeling of choking or something stuck in the throat.
  • A choking feeling in the neck and chest after eating.
  • Tight throat.
  • A gagging sensation.
  • Globus Hystericus.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Having to force yourself to swallow.
  • Feel there is something blocking the airway.
  • Feel like you are suffocating.

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 in 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.

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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.[1][2]

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.[3][4] This anxiety choking feeling is an example of why the body can experience symptoms simply from being overly stressed.

Chronic stress (hyperstimulation) 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 gagging or choking.

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

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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 anxiety 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 – which we call 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.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page. Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including the anxiety symptom having a choking or lump in the throat feeling.


1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.”, August 2019.

3. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014.

4. Justice, Nicholas J., et al. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-Like Induction Elevates β-Amyloid Levels, Which Directly Activates Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Neurons to Exacerbate Stress Responses.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 11 Feb. 2015.