Fear of Swallowing: Cause and Suggestion

Fear of Swallowing: Cause and Suggestion

When you fear swallowing, you set off your body's built-in survival reaction called the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response triggers a host of physiological reactions; one of these being tensing up muscles as your body's way of preparing you to flee the perceived danger. The vast majority of people with a fear of swallowing are physically capable of swallowing normally. The problems with swallowing typically stem from the habit of tensing up the throat and neck muscles.


Swallowing is a fundamental thing we need to do, like breathing or going to sleep. No matter what aspects contribute to this or indeed any other phobia, they are caused by a feeling you don't like, something that feels wrong, whenever you try to swallow. With some people, this leads to an enforced anorexia with all the symptoms, making it even harder to swallow on a physical level.

Such a fear not only involves medication for anxiety disorders but also all other medication, whether it's aspirin or antibiotics. Sometimes the fear causes the person to have difficulty swallowing pills. Most patients acquire after episode of choking on food .Some may develop into a preoccupation with choking .

Fear of swallowing may be due to allergic reaction. Most reactions happen soon after contact with an allergen. As people age, they sometimes experience problems with chewing and swallowing, but there are ways to minimize these problems. The need for certain nutrients in older person’s diets may also change. Storing food in the mouth and swallowing difficulties can lead to choking.

In a clinical setting (in the U.S.A.) somewhere between 3 and 13% of people have social phobia. Social phobia generally starts in the mid -teens (although it often follows on from just being shy) or can be triggered off by a particularly embarrassing event. As with all phobias, stress (or the lack of it) will have a significant effect on the strength of the anxiety created and may lead to fear of gagging, fear of swallowing, fear of choking,

Sometimes difficulty breathing or swallowing might be for antidepressant drug such as fluoxetine. Someone may develop a fear of choking while a dentist is examining them, or become scared they might gag during dental procedures. Some emotional symptoms are intense fear, nervousness, racing heart, blushing, excessive sweating, dry throat and mouth, trembling, and muscle twitches. where a person feels they are being watched while doing something, public speaking, or meeting other peoples' eyes are also symptoms. A phobia is an anxiety about a person, place or thing, which it is out of proportion to any actual danger, and cannot be reasoned or explained away and finally leads to avoidance of what is feared.

Someone might have a highly exaggerated awareness of swallowing saliva generally. We all generate and swallow saliva constantly throughout our lives, it’s a natural process. People with hyper awareness of swallowing will often try to fight the reflex and find them swallowing in a forced or awkward manner.

The term aerophobia can be used to describe both a fear of flying and a fear of breezes and fresh air; the most commonly used expression of the term refers to those whom are phobic to flying. Aerophobia is an intense fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. While adults with aerophobia realize that these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.

Simple reasons for throat swallowing difficulties are dry throat, anxiety, fear, smoking, dehydration and others. X-ray instrument is also a useful addition to the radiographic technique for those patients who have a fear of swallowing the
radiograph. By biting on the large positioning device and watching in a mirror they are assured they won’t swallow the radiograph.

Swallowing problems occur when a person has trouble getting food or liquid down his or her throat. A person may gag, cough, spit, or feel pain when trying to swallow. There can be a number of causes. It may be a short term side effect of chemo or radiation treatment to the throat or chest. It may also be caused by an infection of the mouth or esophagus (swallowing tube that goes from the throat to the stomach), as well as other problems.

Sometimes in about a quarter of those with the disease due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) starts in the mouth and throat muscles, rather than in the limbs or trunk. In these cases, the main problems are difficulty speaking, either in forming words with the lips and tongue or producing sound from the vocal cords, or both. There may be difficulty with chewing and swallowing food, posing a choking hazard. ALS is a progressive disease, and caring for someone with this disorder requires constant adaptation to continued loss of function.

The result of paralysis of one of the two vocal cords can be quite devastating. Three things happen. The voice is reduced to dysphonia (loss of voice or hoarseness). The patient aspirates when swallowing due to the inability of the vocal cords to close and protect the trachea and lungs. This is especially true of liquids. Fear of choking when swallowing becomes intensified and as a result the patient develops a fear of swallowing and is not properly nourished.

Total laryngectomy impacts on quality of life in numerous ways including: one's self-image because of the cosmetic impact of a breathing hole in the neck, by causing swallowing dysfunction, and other problems such as a marked decrease in smell and taste because of lack of breathing through the nose. This still remains the case today in most such situations.

Many times young bone marrow transplant recipients contract a condition, which produces ulcerations in the mouth and throat, severe pain and in some cases, inflammation of the entire gastro-intestinal tract. Chewing and swallowing become difficult.

Another medical term named as swallowing syncope; a temporary loss of consciousness upon swallowing. Syncope is the temporary loss of consciousness or, in plain English, fainting. The situations that trigger this reaction are diverse and include having blood drawn, straining while urinating (micturition syncope) or defecating, coughing or swallowing. The reaction also can be due to the emotional stress of fear or pain.

If a child often stops in the middle of a sentence and repeats individual sounds or syllables, this does not inevitably mean that the child is a stutterer. If a child often stops in the middle of a sentence and repeats individual sounds or syllables, this does not inevitably mean that the child is a stutterer.

Parents should not over-react if their children show such symptoms between ages three and five,' explains Professor Schade, who is an expert on voice, language, speech, swallowing and children's auditory defects, since the wrong reactions in their immediate environment can ultimately lead to the situation becoming more acute. If a child often gets stuck in mid-sentence – 'And then… then… then…' – experts refer to a 'lack of functional fluency'. This occurs in very many children as part of their normal linguistic development, lasting up to six months, and does not necessarily mean that a child stutters.

Known by a number of names - Aerophobia, Fear of Drafts, Fear of Swallowing Air, and Fear of Airborne Noxious Substances being the most common - the problem often significantly impacts the quality of life. It can cause panic attacks and keep people apart from loved ones and business associates. Symptoms typically include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread, although everyone experiences fear of swallowing air in their own way and may have different symptoms. Our treatment involves no drugs.

Phagophobia, a fear of swallowing, is a form of psychogenic dysphagia. The term phagophobia i.e. fear of eating may also be used. Since there is a belief that harm may occur if any food or substance is digested. It is characterized by various significant swallowing complaints with normal physical examination and laboratory findings. In the past, many authors used the term “choking phobia” to describe these patients. Phagophobic patients show fear and avoidance of swallowing food, fluids, or pills. It is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a specific phobia in the residual category (i.e., “other”), along with phobias of vomiting or contracting an illness. Effects of phagophobia can include weight loss, avoidance of eating, and malnutrition.

Patients with phagophobia may have underlying psychiatric symptoms, primarily related to anxiety and depression, but generally do not have a formal psychiatric diagnosis. Phagophobia also requires differential diagnosis from some psychiatric disorders which may include swallowing dysfunction, such as conversion disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Some phagophobic patients also describe a foreign body sensation in the throat (globus pharyngeus) that is usually present at rest and is often unchanged or even ameliorated by a bolus swallow. These patients usually benefit from behavioral therapies ;an expert reported.

Suggestive measure:

Try eating soft foods at first, and then slowly add more solid foods in. Chew very slowly, carefully, and when you feel the food is chewed up enough, swallow it. As you begin eating more foods with no problems swallowing it, you will feel more comfortable and confident that you will not choke.

First have them take a medium sip of water to moisten their throat. Then, have them the pill onto the tip of their tongue and take a small sip of water. Then, instead of having them tilt their head backwards, as they will naturally do, instruct them to tilt their chin downwards towards their chest. This will cause the pill to float towards the back of their mouth, making swallowing feel more natural as gravity will do most of the work.

The recommended psychological treatment for any phobia is a graduated exposure to the feared item along with simultaneous relaxation techniques. Other techniques for this condition are hypnotherapy, self-help techniques and breathing exercises, both of which target the underlying anxiety that is choking you.

A group of study suggested that improvement in the variety of foods eaten and reduction of anxiety related to eating was achieved in all cases and appears to be due to specific treatment techniques.

The treatment of choice is to find a good behavioral or cognitive behavioral therapist who can help you deal with this problem. Basically you want help to identify and challenge your anxious thoughts and how your anxious thoughts contribute to your fear. More importantly though, you want to unlearn your fear by gradually approaching the foods that are difficult for you to eat.

As a general rule, thicker and colder liquids are easier to swallow. Thin liquids are the most difficult because they are virtually impossible to control within the mouth. Sitting upright with support for the head and neck can help to avoid the hyperextension of the neck that increases the risk of choking.

A swallowing evaluation (usually done by a speech therapist) would be the first thing. Finally, there are people (with and without anxiety disorders) who simply have a hard time swallowing pills. Discuss your problem with your doctor, emphasizing that this always has been a problem for you. A throat doctor should be able to guide you - perhaps if your throat is constricting too much, exercises to relax your throat muscles might be beneficial. Breathing exercises might help. Chewing gum might help strengthen the throat muscles.

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This is a really really really badly written article!! It hops all over the place and is very disjointed. I did not find it in the least helpful - it should be removed from this site.

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