“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 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Anxiety Chronic Throat Clearing

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: May 7, 2020


anxiety chronic throat clearing image

Chronically or excessively clearing your throat can be a symptom of anxiety disorder, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, 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 chest tightness.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and chronic throat clearing.

Anxiety chronic throat clearing symptom common descriptions:

  • You feel there is something in your throat that you constantly have to clear. Sometimes it is phlegm or mucus, and sometimes there isn’t anything yet you feel you have to clear your throat anyway.
  • You are constantly trying to clear your throat.
  • You have an excess of phlegm or mucus that you have to clear from your throat.
  • It can also feel like you have a constant cough because of an excess of mucus and phlegm in the back of your throat.
  • This excess of mucus and phlegm can make it seem like you are choking or have to swallow all the time just to clear it.
  • It can also feel as if you can’t get rid of your urge to clear your throat, or that you constantly have a “frog” in your throat.
  • It can also feel as though you have persistent mucus build-up in your nasal passages and throat even though you don’t have a cold or flu.
  • This symptom can be so pervasive that your throat is often raw and even sore at times from all of the throat clearing.

Excessive throat clearing can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist 24/7 day after day. For example, you have to clear the excess mucus and phlegm once in a while and not that often, have to clear it off and on, or are constantly clearing your throat of mucus and phlegm.

Excessively clearing your throat can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow a period of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason.

This symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where you have an episode of constantly clearing your throat of mucus and phlegm, and then your throat feels fine for a time.

This symptom can change from day to day, moment to moment, or remain as a constant background to your struggle with anxiety disorder.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

This symptom can become so pervasive that you have become hyper-focused on it and bothered by it.

Clearing your throat has occurred so often that it’s become a habit where you feel there is something in your throat that you have to clear even when there isn’t.

This symptom can become so bothersome that concern about it can lead to high anxiety, including panic attacks for those who are overly anxious.


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Why can anxiety cause chronic throat clearing?

Medical Advisory

1. Stress and chronic stress (hyperstimulation)

If your doctor has attributed this symptom to anxiety, yes, anxiety can cause and aggravate chronic throat clearing. Here’s why:

Anxious behavior activates the stress response, which prepares the body for immediate action – to either fight or flee.

This survival reaction is the reason why the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, or the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”).[1][2]

The stress response causes many body-wide changes, including:

  • Rallies the body’s resources so that it has the energy to immediately fight or flee.
  • Suppresses the digestive system so that more of the body’s resources are diverted to fighting or fleeing.
  • Suppresses the immune system so that even those resources are diverted to emergency action.

To name a few.

Stress responses stress the body because of all of the body-wide changes stress hormones cause.

Infrequent stress responses don’t don’t harm the body. Frequent stress response, however, can cause “hyperarousal,” which we call stress-response hyperstimulation since stress hormones are stimulants.[3][4]

Hyperstimulation chronically stresses the body. Chronic stress can cause and aggravate chronic throat clearing. For instance:

Suppressed immune system

As mentioned, stress suppresses the body’s immune system.[5][6] A suppressed immune system impairs the body’s ability to successfully fight off foreign intruders (bacteria and infection). Difficulty fighting off intruders can set up conditions that cause a heightened production of phlegm and mucus.

Allergies

Allergies can also cause an excess of phlegm and mucus. Stress can aggravate allergies. If you are overly anxious, the stress caused by your anxiousness can aggravate allergies and cause this symptom.

Visit our anxiety and allergies article for more information.

Food allergies

Food allergies can also cause an excess of phlegm and mucus. As above, stress can aggravate food allergies.

Asthma

Stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is a common asthma trigger.

Asthma can cause issues with phlegm and mucus,[7] as well as chronic coughing, which can also cause issues with phlegm and mucus production.

Visit our anxiety cough article for more information.

Hyperventilation

Stress is a common cause of hyperventilation. Consequently, many anxious people hyperventilate due to the stress caused by their anxious behavior.

Over-breathing can cause a decrease in carbon monoxide in the blood. Low carbon dioxide (CO2) can cause an increase in mucus production to prevent further CO2 loss.[8] Extra mucus can cause the urge to clear the throat.

Candida

Candida albicans is a pathogenic yeast that is a natural microflora found in the GI tract, mouth, and vagina. Most of the time, it causes no issues.[9]

Similar to the above, stress suppresses the immune system and can cause an increase in blood sugar, which can cause Candida to flourish. An overgrowth of Candida in the mouth and nasal passageways can cause an excess of phlegm and mucus.

Since anxious behavior stresses the body, many anxious people have mild to severe problems the Candida. However, many aren’t aware of it.

Sinus infection

Sinus infections can also cause an excess of phlegm and mucus. A suppressed immune system due to stress, including the stress caused by anxious behavior, will make it harder for the body to fight off the infection, which can exacerbate this symptom when the body is fighting a sinus infection.

Stomach irritation

Stomach and digestive upset can also chronic throat clearing. Stomach upset can cause acid reflux that rises up in the throat that then needs clearing. This condition is often referred to as Laryngopharyngeal Reflux.[10]

Stomach and digestive problems can also cause issues with phlegm and mucus.

Chronic stress often causes stomach and digestive problems. These problems can linger long after chronic stress has been resolved, which can cause chronic phlegm and mucus problems.

Visit our stomach and digestive problems article for more information.

Dehydration

Elevated heart rate, elevated breathing, and increased metabolism due to stress can lead to dehydration.[11] Many anxious people are dehydrated because they aren’t taking in sufficient fluids to offset the effects of the stress caused by their anxious behavior.

Dehydration can cause an increase in histamine, which can cause an increase and thickening of mucus.[12][13]

This increase and thickening of mucus can make it feel like you have to constantly clear your throat.

Inflammation

Chronic stress often causes problems with chronic inflammation. Inflammation can cause chronic problems with phlegm and mucus production, especially in the airways.[14]

2. Other factors

Associated with anxiety, there are other factors that can cause and contribute to this symptom, including:

Select the relevant link for more information.

How to get rid of anxiety chronic throat clearing?

You can reduce and eliminate anxiety chronic throat clearing by:

Keeping well hydrated

You can eliminate dehydration and its adverse effects on the body by keeping yourself well hydrated each day.

Moreover, regularly drinking water or tea can soothe the throat, as well as flush the excess mucus and toxins from your system.

Keeping yourself well hydrated can also thin mucus, making it easier to clear and prevent it from clinging to and blocking airways.

Reducing stress

Reducing stress will eliminate the cause and aggravation of this symptom. Reducing stress can:

  • Bolster your immune system
  • Reduce stress’s influence on allergies, including food allergies
  • Reduce stress’s influence on asthma
  • Help breathing patterns return to normal, which can eliminate hyperventilation
  • Cause a reduction in Candida
  • Help the body fight off intruders
  • Allow the stomach and digestive system to return to normal functioning
  • Reduce inflammation issues

NOTE: If this symptom is caused by inflammation, Candida, or stomach and digestive problems, you might need extra assistance as these conditions can linger long after the body has recovered from the adverse effects of stress. Working with a Nutritional Science Practitioner can be especially helpful.

Since stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is a common cause and aggravator of excessive throat clearing, reducing your body’s stress and addressing your anxious behaviors can lead to the elimination of this symptom.

Keep in mind that eliminating anxiety symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve overcome issues with anxiety. Eliminating anxiety symptoms means you’ve eliminated the unhealthy stress that is causing your symptoms. But if the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety aren’t addressed, it’s just a matter of time until the body is stressed and symptomatic again.

Rebounds of symptoms and a return to a struggle with anxiety are caused for this very reason: the core issues that cause problematic anxiety haven’t been successfully addressed.

When you eliminate the cause of the problem – anxiety’s underlying factors – you eliminate the problem and the problem's symptoms.

If you have been struggling with anxiety and symptoms, we recommend connecting with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist. A professional therapist can help you overcome your anxiety issues. Research has shown that working with an experienced therapist is an effective treatment for anxiety disorder.[15][16][17]

All of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder combined with their Masters Degree and above professional training makes them a good choice when desiring to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

Moreover, getting therapy via teletherapy, distanced therapy, or e-therapy (telephone or online therapy) is as effective, if not more so, than in-person therapy.[18][19]

All of our recommended therapists are experienced at working with clients via distanced therapy and new technologies. We’ve found distanced therapy to be especially effective when working with anxious clients.

Research has also shown that self-help information can also be beneficial.[20][21] For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including this one, 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 is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Anxiety Chronic Throat Clearing symptom.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye H. Endocrine reactions during stress. Anesthesia & Analgesia. 1956;35:182–193. [PubMed]

2. "Understanding the Stress Response - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

3. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4373764/.

4. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/.

5. Segerstrom, Suzanne, and Miller, Gregory. "Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry." Psychology Bulletin, July 2004, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/

6. Morey, Jennifer, et al. "Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function." Current Opinion In Psychology, October 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/

7. Evans, Christopher, et al. "Mucus hypersecretion in asthma: causes and effects." Current Opinion Pulmonary Medicine, Jan 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709596/

8. “Asthma And Allergies.” Breatheon.com, retrieved May 2020, http://www.breatheon.com/asthma-and-allergies

9. Jill Seladi-Schulman, PhD. “Candida Albicans: Infections, Symptoms, and Treatments.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 9 Aug. 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322722.php.

10. Joo, Young-Hoon, et al. "Relationship between Depression and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux." Psychiatry Investigation, 14 Mar 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5355023/

11. Shaw, Gina. "Water and Stress Reduction: Sipping Stress Away." WebMD, retrieved 7 May 2020, https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-stress-reduction#1

12. Anderson, Wayne, et al. "The Relationship of Mucus Concentration (Hydration) to Mucus Osmotic Pressure and Transport in Chronic Bronchitis." American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 15 Jul 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4532825/

13. Yamauchi, Kohei, and Ogasawara, Masahito. "The Role of Histamine in the Pathophysiology of Asthma and the Clinical Efficacy of Antihistamines in Asthma Therapy." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 8 Apr 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6480561/

14. Shen, Yongchun, et al. "Management of airway mucus hypersecretion in chronic airway inflammatory disease: Chinese expert consensus (English edition)." International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 30 Jan 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796802/

15. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/.

16. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2654783.

17. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.

18. Thompson, Ryan Baird, "Psychology at a Distance: Examining the Efficacy of Online Therapy" (2016). University Honors Theses. Paper 285.

19. Kingston, Dawn. “Advantages of E-Therapy Over Conventional Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Dec. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-pregnant-pause/201712/advantages-e-therapy-over-conventional-therapy.

20. C., Lewis, et al. "Efficacy, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of self-help interventions for anxiety disorders: systematic review." British Journal of Psychiatry, Jan. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22215865

21. Kumar, Shefali, et al. "Mobile and traditional cognitive behavioral therapy programs for generalized anxiety disorder: A cost-effectiveness analysis." Journal PLOS, 4 Jan. 2018, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0190554