- Reignition: Learning to Love Food Again After Pseudodysphagia
- Enjoy the Process
- Choose the Right Time
- Follow Recipes Exactly
- Arrange Your Food
- Clean as You Go
- Hit the Google
- Invite a Guest
- Beautify the Kitchen
- Add Some Music
- Keep a Backup
- Make Changes Slowly
- Watch Your Portions
- Eat Together
- Choking Phobia : An Uncommon Phobic Disorder, Treated with Behavior Therapy : A Case Report and Review of the Literature
- Pseudodysphagia: The Fear of Choking
- The Grind: A Temporary Fix for Pseudodysphagia
- Not a heart attack
- CBT seemed the obvious choice my research
- Now I had a use for it
- In fact, I still eat it (or rather, drink it) today
- Fear of Choking Phobia – Pseudodysphagia
- What are the causes of fear of choking phobia?
- Symptoms of Pseudodysphagia
- Overcoming the fear
- How to Handle Fear of Choking
Reignition: Learning to Love Food Again After Pseudodysphagia
Oct 12, 2017 · 10 min read
When my choking anxiety first started, I only eliminated a few foods that seemed most ly to get stuck in my throat. Meats went first, of course, though I found myself capable of chewing fish for a while. As the anxiety deepened, I continued to weed more and more foods from my stable of acceptable plate fillers.
What I discovered is that my entire relationship with food changed. I no longer felt excited about a meal — instead, I dreaded it, and I wished more than once that I could find a drink or intravenous solution that could supply me with all the nutrition I needed and keep me feeling full. Of course, no magic bullet exists — except the one on my kitchen counter.
As I mentioned in the first first article in this series, I’m neither a therapist nor a medical professional.
However, experience has taught me that, when your relationship with food changes, you develop a completely different mindset at mealtimes. Your goal becomes different.
You’re not in search of good flavor or healthy nutrition; instead, you just want to get it over with — or skip it entirely.
The Grind helped me reinstate my former love affair with food. Suddenly, I could force down foods that didn’t scare me but still met my body’s needs. I started to look forward to mealtimes again, which at one point seemed impossible, and I felt empowered that I’d found a workable solution for my problem.
In my opinion, it’s a necessary stepping stone as you work toward conquering your fear of swallowing. If you don’t love food, you can’t develop the skills you need to build up your confidence and challenge yourself with more difficult ingredients.
That’s why I’d to share a few tips and tricks I used to reignite my love for food and move myself through the tunnel toward improved mental and physical health.
Enjoy the Process
I never d to cook. In fact, I avoided it at all costs.
Most of my meals came from my husband’s imagination and hands or from a box or bag. Cooking seemed a time-wasting sucker’s bet that stole precious minutes from other tasks I would rather have accomplished.
However, if there’s one good thing that came from my choking anxiety, it was a new appreciation for preparing and cooking food. I became invested in the finished product because, not only did I need to it, but I wanted it to provide me with the nutrients my body needed.
The two goals became inseparable in my mind.
If you can find a way to discover joy in the process of preparing your meals, you’ll enjoy your meals even more than you would if the chef at a five-star restaurant prepared them for you.
Trust me. I wouldn’t have believed it, either. The sense of accomplishment that results from a few minutes in the kitchen can never be discounted, especially when you’re on the road to recovery from a fear of swallowing.
If you’re me and lack a natural desire to spend hours in the kitchen, there are a few ways you can get used to cooking — and even begin to enjoy it.
Choose the Right Time
If you try to cook while you’re stressed, anxious, tired, in pain, or otherwise in a poor frame of mind, you’ll associate cooking with your mental state. I recommend cooking only when you’re in a great mood and you’re low on stress.
Try making several meals at a time when you feel positive. Stick them all in the freezer so you’ll always have available food — even when you don’t feel cooking.
You can also allow yourself to substitute protein shakes for foods when you don’t want to cook. Just make sure you eat at least one solid meal per day.
Follow Recipes Exactly
Part of the reason I hated to cook was because I didn’t know how. It was never a skill I pursued, so I hadn’t bothered to learn how to whisk, fry, bake, saute, or grill anything. Fortunately, I have a husband who loves to cook and whose skills far exceeded mine, so he helped me learn.
I also started reading about cooking online. There are plenty of great resources with recipes and how-tos for people us. Just follow the recipes exactly so you know they’ll turn out the way you expect.
Arrange Your Food
If the end product looks not only appetizing, but beautiful, you’ll quickly gain an affection for cooking. Instead of dumping your food on a plate or in a bowl, arrange it carefully so it’s aesthetically pleasing.
You don’t have to go crazy here. I don’t keep garnishes on standby and I’ve never bothered to drizzle sauces artistically across my food. However, pay attention to how your food looks so you gain a sense of accomplishment upon completion.
Clean as You Go
Cooking also never interested me because I hated the mess it made. Dirty countertops, grimy stoves, splattered microwaves, and a pile of dishes didn’t seem worth the end result. That’s why I learned to clean as I cooked.
I’d start with a perfectly — or acceptably, at least — clean kitchen. As I worked, I’d put used and no-longer-needed dishes and utensils next to the sink.
While I waited for something to bake in the oven or sizzle on the stove, I’d rinse and scrape those dishes and load them in the dishwasher. My goal, during every cleaning expedition, was to enjoy my food without leaving a mess in the kitchen.
Hit the Google
I learned that my parents’ and grandparents’ methods of cooking weren’t always the easiest. Google offers a wealth of information about handy tricks and hacks that make just about every aspect of cooking easier and faster.
For instance, I learned that you can halve cherry tomatoes by placing them on a plate, covering them with another plate to hold them still, and slicing sideways with a serrated knife. It took 20 minutes off the time I would usually spend halving them one by one.
Invite a Guest
When you’re cooking for someone else, you’re automatically more inspired to select the best ingredients and prepare the best dishes. If you live alone, invite a guest over for dinner one night. Explain that you’re cooking food that’s easy to eat and that you’d love some moral support.
You don’t have to throw a dinner party — that might become too overwhelming. Instead, select one close friend or family member to try your dishes.
Beautify the Kitchen
If you don’t spending time in your kitchen, you’ll find any excuse not to work: Judge Judy’s on, your back hurts, the dogs need cuddles.
However, a beautiful kitchen beckons you a siren. You’ll find yourself spending more time in the space because it feels your own.
Add a few potted plants to the window sill, choose a color scheme for your walls and linens, paint your cabinets, or install fresh flooring. Bring in a few of your favorite decorative items or make it minimalist and open. Use your own personal aesthetic to create the ideal kitchen.
Add Some Music
One of the reasons I always despised cooking was because it kept me away from other things I enjoyed. To help myself acclimate to Head Chef of my own kitchen, I started playing music while I worked.
Occasionally, I’d listen to a podcast or audio book so I felt I was learning something or being entertained as I cooked.
You could also watch television, chat with family members, or help the kids with their homework while you cook. In fact, you can even cuddle the dogs — as long as you wash your hands before you put your hands back in the ingredients.
Keep a Backup
Sometimes, no matter how closely you follow the recipe, you screw up a meal. It happens. That’s why I always keep a backup option so I don’t have to go hungry.
As long as I know there’s something tasty and edible available no matter how my cooking turns out, I can approach the task with confidence and enjoyment.
If you already love to cook, by all means, continue to develop your appreciation for the art. However, if you’re me, you can develop a love of cooking that will last long after you conquer your fear of swallowing.
Make Changes Slowly
At first, I jumped in whole-hog, determined to fit everything into my Magic Bullet that came from a plant or animal. My stomach rebelled in the worst possible way.
If, me, you’ve limited your diet to a small range of foods that feel comfortable to swallow, your body has adjusted to that diet. In my case, I’d consumed mostly carbohydrates, so protein and fiber no longer sat well with me.
In fact, they turned my guts into a battlefield.
One day in particular, I mashed up an avocado, mixed it with ground tuna fish, and sprinkled two teaspoons of flax seed over the top. Thirty minutes after I finished the meal, I found myself rolling around on my bed, my stomach more bloated than a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
I felt a balloon had inflated inside my gut, and if I’d had a long enough needle, I might have shoved it through my belly button in an attempt to pop the imaginary bubble. The discomfort (read: indescribable pain) lasted about three hours, after which I cut back on the flax considerably.
Other foods that caused me distress included:
- Cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale)
- Large amounts of blended leafy greens
- Large portions of lean protein
- Excess dairy
Watch for problem foods as you try new things. Your mileage will vary because we all have different gut bacteria and sensitivities. Make sure you avoid anything that might cause an allergic reaction and write down foods that give you gastric distress.
You don’t want a repeat performance, if you know what I’m saying.
Even if a food causes you discomfort, you might not have to avoid it forever. I can now eat dairy without trouble, and my aversion to greens has largely subsided. I just needed to introduce those foods slowly and in small quantities so my stomach could adjust. Yes, I can even handle flax seed now.
Watch Your Portions
When you grind food up into teeny tiny pieces, your perception of portion sizes becomes skewed. At least, mine did.
When I’d prepare a “salad” of minced vegetables and chicken breast, I found I could only eat about half of it. I wasted more food than I ate during the first few weeks.
It’s natural for you to fill your plate or bowl because that’s what you do when you’re eating whole, unadulterated foods. However, grinding them up makes them denser, so you have to pay attention to portion sizes.
Eventually, I started writing down the quantities of food I put into every meal. If I couldn’t finish it, I’d make a note so I would use less food the next time.
Your mileage may vary, but I recommend keeping track of your portion sizes so your grocery bills don’t spiral control.
If you allow yourself to eat everything on your plate despite bloated portion sizes, you might gain weight. Alternatively, if you eat too little, you’ll deprive your body of nutrition.
My advice is to measure your food in its untouched form before you start cooking. For instance, if you’re grinding up chicken breast, cut a reasonable portion prior to dumping it into the Magic Bullet. That way, you’ll know you’re eating healthy portions.
Choking anxiety can become isolating because you don’t want to eat with other people. Nobody wants someone else — even a loved one — to witness him or her spitting a wad of masticated food onto a plate.
However, meals bring people together, and you don’t want to miss this time with your friends and family. I recommend attempting to eat similar meals to everyone else at the table, but to grind your ingredients so they become more palatable.
For instance, if everyone else wants asparagus, sweet potatoes, and grilled chicken for dinner, you can still participate in the meal without cooking your own separate food. Simply mince the chicken in your blender of choice, blend the asparagus and mix it with the chicken, and mash the sweet potatoes so they’re easier to chew and swallow.
Your friends and family will understand your needs and appreciate your willingness to eat with them. They’re more concerned with spending time with you than with judging the preparation of the food on your plate.
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Choking Phobia : An Uncommon Phobic Disorder, Treated with Behavior Therapy : A Case Report and Review of the Literature
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Pseudodysphagia: The Fear of Choking
Pseudodysphagia is the fear of choking. Those with this phobia are often afraid of swallowing, but not because of the process of swallowing. Instead, they are afraid that swallowing will lead to choking.
The fear of swallowing, phagophobia, is different. Pseudodysphagia can become so severe that it causes malnutrition and malnourishment, interfering with your health.
It can cause the constant feeling that there is a lump in your throat, called globus hystericus.
Pseudodysphagia is a psychosomatic illness. It can create the feeling of having a lump in your throat. If you have this fear, you are afraid of choking and may avoid eating solid foods. Some people resort to eating pureed foods, such as baby food, or a liquid diet.
This can cause malnourishment. While some people develop this phobia after a choking scare, others can not pinpoint an incident that caused the fear.
It frequently develops progressively; as you become more obsessed with the fear, you start to avoid more foods until your health is impacted.
Ruling Out Other Medical Conditions
Before a diagnosis of pseudodysphagia is made, certain medical conditions should be ruled out. Dysphagia causes difficulty swallowing. People with this condition can sometimes experience pain when swallowing.
It can be caused by weak muscles in the tongue, cheek or throat. Medical conditions, such as a stroke, can result in dysphagia. It can become serious if you are not able to eat enough food to remain healthy.
Another medical condition, omophydroid muscle syndrome occurs when the muscle in the front of the neck is chronically sore or swollen, making swallowing painful. While this condition is considered rare, it is possible that those diagnosed with pseudodysphagia actually have this condition.
Some medications can also cause throat muscles to constrict. Your doctor should complete a thorough evaluation to determine if there is an underlying medical condition causing your symptoms.
The first step in treatment is to determine if the condition is caused by a medical condition and, if so, to treat that condition. Your doctor might also request blood tests and analyze your nutritional intake and work with you if you are suffering from malnourishment.
There is no specific treatment for pseudodysphagia.
Because it often coincides with other mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder or other phobias, your doctor might refer you to a mental health professional for a complete evaluation.
Once you have an accurate diagnosis, the mental health professional will work with you on creating a treatment plan, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy.
Your therapist might create a desensitization program, where you are gradually reintroduced to swallowing foods.
In the beginning, you might be asked to put a piece of food in your mouth, without swallowing, and, as you get used to swallowing soft foods, foods with more solidity will be slowly introduced.
This process is slow and can take weeks or months for you to feel comfortable swallowing foods again.
“Dysphagia,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
“Overcoming Eating Phobias,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Anxiety Care UK
The Grind: A Temporary Fix for Pseudodysphagia
I never thought that I would fear something as natural as swallowing food. My fear of choking, however, occupied most of my waking thoughts for nearly two years.
My fear of swallowing didn’t just lead to panic and misery. It also robbed my body of nutrition and skyrocketed my weight. Eating mostly carb-heavy foods will do that to a girl.
About three months into this ridiculous spiral, I reached my breaking point. I felt crap, I looked crap, and I ate crap.
Around that same time, I was experiencing constant chest pressure that landed me in the emergency room. I was sure I was having a heart attack, but the tests revealed no abnormalities other than a blood-pressure reading of 200/140. After a dose of intravenous Ativan (an anti-anxiety medication), my blood pressure plummeted back to normal levels and the chest pressure went away.
The patient doctor sent me home with a prescription for Klonopin and orders to see my primary care physician immediately.
Not a heart attack
It’s hard to walk into an emergency room as a 33-year-old woman and demand tests that might detect cardiac arrest. When I first went to the window in the reception area, I started my explanation with, “I’m probably just crazy, but…”
As it turns out, I was crazy.
My fear of swallowing and other anxieties had reached critical mass. My body was literally screaming at me to get help, and my trip to the emergency room helped me see that fact.
No, I didn’t have heart disease. I had a mental illness.
My subsequent visit to the doctor led to more prescriptions and to a cognitive behavioral therapist. I was told that the medication could control the physical symptoms of anxiety, but couldn’t relieve it altogether.
CBT seemed the obvious choice my research
During my first few months of therapy, we talked about my life, my hopes, my dreams, and my panic attacks. However, I didn’t want to talk with her about my fear of choking.
It felt shameful somehow, as though I’d forgotten a natural instinct that had kept human beings alive for thousands of years, but could no longer sustain me.
The inability to properly chew and swallow my food left me hollow in more ways than one; after all, shouldn’t eating come naturally?
My anxiety helped me rationalize my thoughts. After all, I could live on mac and cheese and baked potatoes for the rest of my life, right? It wouldn’t kill me.
Choking, on the other hand, could become as deadly as a hatchet in the hands of a B-movie villain.
However, my body worked against me every step of the way. It wanted fruits, vegetables, meat, and other nutritious foods that my steady diet of mac and cheese just couldn’t deliver. I suffered from constant headaches, fatigue, and irritability. Then I encountered a comment on an internet message board.
The anonymous commenter mentioned that she suffered from the same proclivity as me and that she had reduced her diet to baby food and protein shakes. The idea of spooning unnaturally-colored mush from little glass jars held no appeal for me, but it sparked my imagination.
I’ve since learned in therapy that sometimes we need to find workarounds for problems we can’t yet confront directly. As I mentioned in the first article I published on pseudodysphagia, our brains are constantly at work, the synapses firing without our knowledge.
If we’re not healthy enough to fight back against anxiety, we have to find a way to cope. Otherwise, we devolve into a panicky mess.
After I read the comment on the message board, I started thinking about workarounds that didn’t involve baby food.
In my kitchen, I rummaged through drawers and cabinets until I finally found it: The Magic Bullet that my mother had given me for Christmas several years previously. The Magic Bullet that might have gone three rounds with a vegetable or fruit before being consigned to its resting place.
Now I had a use for it
My husband had cooked chicken breasts for himself the night before, but he’d only eaten one. I retrieved the second from the refrigerator, diced it up, and fed it in small doses to the Magic Bullet’s blades. What came the cup was a pile of finely minced chicken breast.
To be honest, it looked the food I put in my dogs’ dishes every night, but at that point, how could I get choosy?
I grabbed a jar of mayonnaise from the fridge and mixed a little with the chicken to give it some flavor and moisture. Then I carried my treasure into the living room, launched an episode of Judge Judy, and ate the entire chicken breast in about twenty minutes.
That single, simple meal tasted better than anything I’d ever eaten in my entire life. I could chew tiny bights of minced chicken without anxiety, and my body seemed satisfied when I finished. For the first time in months, I’d given it the protein it needed to keep me alive.
However, I doubted I could subsist on chicken breast and mayonnaise for the rest of my life, so I decided to come up with a list of recipes that would allow me to consume whole foods without worrying about my throat contractions.
I’d give you that list of recipes, but I don’t think you need it. Instead, I’ll just say that I minced and ground every healthy food I could find, from baby kale and spinach to broccoli, tuna fish, salmon, avocado, and raspberries.
I figured out which foods tasted best together (trying, whenever possible, to pair proteins and vegetables). I started buying a low-carb protein shake at the grocery store. Every morning, I filled my Magic Bullet with the shake, two tablespoons of nonfat Greek yogurt, six frozen berries, and a handful of ground-up greens. It was delicious and panic-free.
In fact, I still eat it (or rather, drink it) today
If I felt splurging, I’d make a pot of couscous and add bunches of minced veggies, from broccoli and asparagus to carrots and green beans. I also began experimenting with legumes: lentils, black beans, navy beans, and more, in addition to flax seeds and other plant-based foods.
I found myself obsessed, constantly in search of the perfect nutritional mix.
This didn’t cure my fear of swallowing. If someone had presented me with a whole chicken breast or — God forbid — a chicken fried steak, I would have claimed to have eaten earlier and refused the meal.
However, my new grind-it-out strategy allowed me to consume healthy foods without sending me into a spiral of depression and anxiety.
If you’re not ready to move on to the next step in the process I took, keep grinding it out. Find foods you love and make them as tiny and tasty as possible, whether you use your hands, a Magic Bullet, or a more expensive blender.
The flavor and nutrition remains, but you can enjoy your favorite foods and allow your anxiety levels to drop.
I will give you a few grinding tips that might help you avoid some of the frustrations I encountered:
- Add Water: Water helps the blender reach all the food inside and will help liquefy hard foods, such as frozen berries or raw veggies.
- Don’t Force: If you can’t stand the taste of broccoli, don’t put it on your shopping list. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that we need a healthy relationship with food. I only used foods that I enjoyed — whether whole or blended.
- Start Small: If you’re using a smaller blender, such as the Bullet, add small quantities of foods to it slowly. If you pack in a bunch of chicken or other foods, the blades will only reach the lower portion.
- Build Tolerance: Start with the finest grinding you can get. If you feel comfortable with larger pieces, let your body tell you so.
Grinding your food helps you reacquaint yourself with the eating process. You’ll feel better equipped to face each meal, and you can enjoy foods with family and friends without worrying about embarrassing yourself. That alone — for me, at least — proved worth its weight in exotic truffles.
Read the first installment in my series on the fear of choking:
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Fear of Choking Phobia – Pseudodysphagia
Patients with Pseudodysphagia complaint about the inability to swallow but they do not have any physical symptoms to account for their condition. The word Pseudodysphagia comes from Greek Phagophobia where “phagein” means eating and “phobos” means deep dread, aversion or fear. Other names for this phobia include sitophobia where sito is Greek for food.
Pseudodysphagia is an unnatural and irrational fear of choking or swallowing that causes a person to believe s/he will become ill or die if one tries to eat solid foods.
The nature of difficulty these patients face when it comes to swallowing varies depending on the level of their fear: some people can only eat very small pieces of well lubricated foods, while others are afraid of drinking liquids or swallowing pills or tablets.
Naturally, there is substantial loss of weight in this phobia and it is a debilitating condition that can interfere with one’s day-to-day life.
What are the causes of fear of choking phobia?
As with most specific phobias, Pseudodysphagia also begins with a negative experience related to swallowing food. As a child, the phobic might have choked, vomited or had an “embarrassing response” after swallowing certain types of foods.
The brain then creates the same response as a defensive mechanism each time one is confronted with the thought of eating. For example, a patient recalls choking (as a child) on a quarter after it got lodged in his throat.
He lost consciousness and turned blue and recalls fearing eating solid foods steaks, meats, capsules, pills (anything hard or chewy) after the incident.
Psychiatrists also believe that most people with the extreme fear of choking are usually anxious or suffering from other psychiatric disorders depression, Hypochondriasis, Agoraphobia or have a general predisposition to panic attacks.
The fear of choking is also often listed in conjunction with Globus sensation-(a condition that comes and goes wherein the patient feels there is a lump in his throat that prevents him from eating).
However, the two conditions are different; Globus sensation is more common and occurs when patients are typically suffering from ear-nose-throat infections that cause them to fear they might choke or vomit after eating.
Symptoms of Pseudodysphagia
Psychogenic Dysphagia leads to many psychological symptoms, the most important one being inefficient or disorganizedswallowing. Other symptoms of the fear of choking include:
- Avoidance of food, especially swallowing pills, tablets, hard and chewy foods
- Abnormal oral behavior is also seen including deviant tongue movements, feeling the throat pressure, and complaint of globus sensation.
- Malnutrition and weight loss are common side effects of this phobia
- General difficulties in breathing, swallowing and other issues elevated heart rate, feeling dizzy, having fearful thoughts of dying, passing out or embarrassing oneself in front of others are common symptoms of Pseudodysphagia.
- Nightmares about choking on candy, peanuts or indelible objects also tend to keep these patients awake at night.
- Some refuse to eat in front of others thinking that swallowing makes “unpleasant noises”.
Needless to say, this phobia is a debilitating condition that affects the normal life of the patients.
Overcoming the fear
Experts recommend taking a multi-disciplinary approach for overcoming the fear of swallowing. This includes professionals from fields of psychiatry, Otolaryngology, radiology as well as Gastroenterology.
Aversion relief therapy has been proven to be quite effective in treating the fear of choking. In this extreme measure, the patient is given a slight shock to his fingers until he swallows.
To get relief, the patient has no option but to swallow the food, since the shock is ceased only after swallowing action takes place.
This has shown good results since many patients have progressed to swallowing at normal rate after 8-10 sessions of aversion therapy.
Desensitization therapy is another proven and effective treatment for patients having the extreme fear of choking which leads to recurrent nightmares. This therapy is often used along with tongue depressors at the back of the throat to help patients overcome their anxiety about swallowing.
Relaxation sessions may also be conducted before eating meals. These include breathing deeply, positive visualization and/or guided meditation. These self-help methods along with behavior therapy and Gradual desensitization are very useful in overcoming Pseudodysphagia or the fear of choking.
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How to Handle Fear of Choking
People suffering with severe anxiety can develop swallowing or choking problems. This can be extremely alarming to the sufferer and cause phobias a fear of eating, fear of taking medications, and even a fear of drinking. There is usually nothing sinister going on, but there is a tightness in the throat that is a direct result of tension from chronic anxiety.
Any swallowing problems or choking should be evaluated by a doctor, but if your GP has told you that it is purely an anxiety-related issue, then addressing the anxiety will remove the problem. However, this may not be a quick solution, so I am going to discuss ways you can address or deal with this issue.
Understanding and accepting that your swallowing or choking problem is a result of your anxiety is the first step forward.
Scared to eat? | Source
When we are anxious, we tend to catastrophize and internalize in reaction to many physical sensations or symptoms. We also tend to be on higher alert generally, brought about by the frequent release of adrenaline.
When the flight or fight response is initiated by anxious, fearful thoughts, we experience many sensations throughout the body. This is your body preparing to run away or fight the danger. When a real threat is encountered, we don’t tend to notice the adrenaline effects on our body as we are too busy attending to the danger.
The most we might remember is that our heart was beating faster than usual and perhaps an increase in breathing rate.
Things are perceived a little differently when there is no real threat. Adrenaline “excites” us and when anxious, we tend to notice every body sensation. A typical example of this is when our mouths go dry. Suddenly we don’t seem to have much saliva.
An anxious mind will focus on this and alarm bells will start ringing; no saliva, nothing to swallow. This quickly becomes, “I can’t swallow”. Thereafter, the need to swallow becomes of paramount importance and the intense focus makes it appear worse.
If you have a headache, have you noticed that if you lie down and have nothing to think about but the headache, the pain feels worse? The same applies with fear of swallowing.
It can get so bad that eventually you fear choking. You may even feel a lump in the throat, as if something is preventing you from swallowing your food.
Before long, the thought of eating can bring intense fear and some people avoid eating certain foods, even eating at all.
I had a fear of choking when I suffered with panic disorder, so I do know how terrible it feels. I even attended the casualty department on several occasions such was the severity.
I must also mention here, that anxious people might be suffering with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This can worsen the problem, but assuming your fear of choking is a direct result of anxiety, here are some ideas on how to deal with the issue.
People who are highly anxious have tense muscles throughout the body. The tightness can be felt around or inside the throat leading to a feeling that there isn’t much room to swallow. It makes sense therefore, to take up a form of relaxation.
Relaxation CDs can be found on the internet and sometimes downloaded as mp3s. If you can transfer your guided relaxation to a portable player so much the better; then you can practice wherever you are.
A short twenty minute practice a day can only benefit your overall anxious state and thus the tension created by it.
You are less ly to choke on food if you relax your throat muscles just before eating. Avoid cold drinks as these tend to make the throat muscles contract. Instead, sip a half glass of warm water prior to eating. Drinking warm water two or three times a day is a good start.
Blending foods for fear of choking | Source
For those who have a severe swallowing problem that is stopping them from eating, I recommend the following:
- Try cubes of jelly or jello because they will merely melt
- Eat liquid type foods such as soup, milk puddings and yoghurts
- Make smoothies with vegetables and/or fruits
- Move on to blended food and lessen the amount of blending over time
- Move on to chopped or minced foods until you feel able to attempt ordinary meals
- Always make sure your food is moist by adding gravy, stock, fruit juice or water
- Don’t put too much on the plate; small portions to start with
Scared you will choke in front of others | Source
People who fear choking dread the time they must try to eat. This apprehension causes tension build up, so keep busy in between meals. Put an elastic band around your wrist and every time you start to feel the dread of eating, snap the elastic band hard and say “stop”. Carry on with what you were doing.
Eating alone can help as there seems to be more pressure on you not to choke (which brings on a bigger fear), if you are eating with other people present. You can gradually return to the family table as you improve. This may sound pandering to the problem, but to be honest, you have to feel comfortable about eating and anything that provokes more worry is best avoided.
Ironically, I found that eating toast or crackers was easier than eating bread. Bread seems to stay a longer time in the mouth and soaks up the saliva more, leaving a hard to swallow bolus.
Take very small bites of food and chew slowly. It doesn’t matter if it takes you two minutes to chew a small amount. Chew, chew, and chew, until you know it’s impossible to choke on what is left! Better to have eaten something and it takes half an hour, than to have eaten nothing at all.
Swallowing medicines, especially capsules can be a real problem for those who fear choking or have swallowing difficulties. Ask your doctor for liquid forms wherever possible.
You would be surprised how many of our medications do come in liquid form.
Sometimes you may have to take a child medicine and therefore lots more of it, but it can help while you are going through this problem.
Address the anxiety—this is all about cause and effect. If you don’t address the anxiety, your problem is ly to remain or keep coming back
- Relaxation is a must. You could try forms such as meditation, guided visualization, yoga, and breathing exercises
- Drink several glasses of warm water through the day, especially just before a meal
- Start with very small amounts of food, from liquid leading up to normal meals
- Making sure you have a balanced diet is important, so blend or make smoothies of those vegetables, fruits, meats and fish
- Don’t rush eating and go at a slower pace; eating something is better than nothing
- Don’t feel pressured to eat with others if you know it adds to your fear
- When thinking about the next meal and getting worried, distract yourself from the apprehension
You will not choke to death because of anxiety. I had a fear of choking for years, but I never actually choked. I do know that some people have some success using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). The video above gives you some idea about this technique.