Choking Symptoms/Tight Throat with Anxiety or Panic Attacks

It is common to feel tension around the throat area during an episode of anxiety. This is caused by the muscles of the throat contracting and can give the person the sensation there is a lump in their throat. The medical term for this is globus hystericus.

For people who experience this in association with eating, I find that it’s the thought of forcing a swallow that causes them to feel anxious. If you feel very uncomfortable while eating, the best approach is to simply chew your food and make no attempt to swallow. Just keep chewing. You’ll find that you can’t stop the process of swallowing—it’s a natural reflex. By not feeling that you have to force a swallow, the pressure is off. Swallowing happens as a natural reflex if you simply keep chewing.

You can have fun experimenting with this. Try to eat anything at all and force yourself not to swallow. It’s almost impossible. This is a great approach for people who fear swallowing, because they don’t have to put themselves under any pressure to swallow. When pressure is removed from the equation, the problem solves itself.

I believe a lot of people experience a lump in the throat due to a buildup of emotion. During emotional events, such as weddings and funerals, it’s common to feel this sensation. And what’s more interesting is that, when people express themselves (crying, laughing, talking), the swell of emotion dies down and the sensation ends.

So if you feel this sensation on a regular basis, I suggest that you start singing or humming. Singing or humming to yourself for several minutes, on a regular basis, releases the muscle tension in the throat area. For this to be most effective, focus on the singing, not on trying to see if the sensation has gone. Like many of the anxiety sensations, the less you preoccupy yourself with it, the faster the issue is resolved.

Some might associate this “lump in the throat” sensation with a disease. In practice, real lumps in the throat, such as a cancer, are not felt (this is one of the reasons that a tumor can get so big before it’s discovered). Nevertheless, if you’re concerned about your throat—or, in fact, any part of your body—always get a full medical examination. This is the fastest way to put anxious “what if” thoughts to rest.