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Constant Lump in the Throat Feeling Anxiety Symptom

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

Constant lump in the throat feeling anxiety symptom

Lump in the throat description:

This feeling is often described as:

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

This anxiety lump feeling can occur rarely, frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel a lump in the throat sensation once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on fairly regularly, or have it all the time.

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

This 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 feeling can range in intensity from barely noticeable, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and barely noticeable the next.

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

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

Can anxiety cause a lump in the throat feeling?

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning anxiety symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms, including this anxiety symptom. If your doctor concludes your symptoms are solely anxiety-related, you can be confident there isn't a medical cause. Generally, doctors can easily determine the difference between anxiety symptoms and those caused by a medical condition.

Doctors aren't infallible, however. If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, you can seek a second or more opinions. But if all opinions agree, you can be assured anxiety is the cause of this symptom.

Can anxiety cause a constant lump in the throat feeling? Yes! Here’s why:

Being anxious activates the stress response. The stress response causes immediate 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 the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

A part of the stress response changes include causing the body’s muscles to tighten so that they are more resilient to damage. This muscle tightening effect can affect any muscle and muscle groups in the body, including the muscles in the throat that help you swallow. This symptom is an example of how the throat can feel when the throat muscles are tight due to being anxious.

So being anxious can cause a ‘lump in the throat feeling.’ Many people who are nervous or anxious experience this feeling.

But so can persistently elevated stress. Persistently elevated stress can cause the body to exhibit similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. Having a constant lump in the throat feeling is a common symptom of persistently elevated stress and how that stress affects the body’s muscles, including the muscles in the throat.

Lump in the throat anxiety treatment.

When this feeling is caused by an active stress response due to being anxious (or nervous), 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 disappear in time. 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 persistently elevated stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this feeling disappears.

Reducing your body’s stress and giving your body ample time to return to normal, non-hyperstimulated health should cause this feeling to subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

Sure, this feeling can be unsettling and even annoying. But it will disappear when you deal with your body’s stress.

Keep in mind that this symptom isn't harmful or causing harm to your body or throat. It just feels bothersome.

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.

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Additional Resources:

Return to our section that explains the hundreds of anxiety signs and symptoms, including trembling, numbness, tingling, shortness or breath, and racing heart, and so on.

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