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Old 05-11-17, 20:59
fleece fleece is offline
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 2
Problems Eating

Hi, I have found this forum very helpful in the past few weeks, and hope anyone reading this is doing as well as possible. Apologies for the length of the following, but the context is just to prove that my problem is not medical.

Three years ago, I went through a terrible breakup and very quickly afterwards, developed a debilitating fear of swallowing. For six months, I barely ate anything, struggling even with liquids, had globus sensation all the time- I lost fifty pounds in weight and had very little strength to leave the house, save for pestering doctors occasionally. They sent me for throat scans, to an ENT specialist, the works, and found no physical problem. I refused to accept this diagnosis, and eventually, was diagnosed with a bad throat infection (that had been festering for goodness knows how many months), although admittedly, there was also a vast dollop of anxiety and depression happening on my end. It took a few months, but eventually I recovered and was able to enjoy eating without too much fear again.

However, a very close friend I was in love with committed suicide without warning last year, and due to the immediate trauma of it and receiving/recovering from a devastating injury of my own shortly afterwards, I donít think I really processed the death fully. Nothing else in my life currently should be having a negative effect on my mental state. About two months ago, shortly after starting a new job (which I like quite well) in the city where my friend used to live, I started freaking out in an unprecedented manner; having maybe 10 or more full-on, forty minutes long panic attacks a day, feeling constantly on edge in between, crying upon waking, palpitations galore, unable to even think about eating. Had never experienced physical anxiety on this scale- eventually figured out it was due to continuous use (skipping placebo weeks) of the hormonal contraceptive patch, Evra. Came off it cold turkey and things got even worse, despite trying everything; CBD oil, acupuncture, regular exercise, etc.

This lasted for a month before I gave in, such was the anxiety, and went back on the patch, this time with the intention of taking breaks every three weeks. I am thankfully feeling more like myself, but am still feeling fatigued and unable to enjoy food. Admittedly, have only just started penicillin within the last few days for a throat infection I suspect I have had for a few weeks (tonsils were so swollen they were touching my tongue), which has probably added to any swallowing anxiety, as food was catching in and around the swollen tonsil area, although I still get anxious at the prospect of choking, even though I eat so carefully. I know logically it is a ridiculous fear, and I have overcome it once previously, but even when eating foods I like, it can feel like an ordeal and sometimes, invoke pangs of fear. I never look forward to eating, and fear that if I donít keep forcing myself to eat regularly, my disordered ways of old might arise, and this fear might balloon even more again.

It is already quite difficult as I am in a relatively new relationship, and had to tell them recently about my fears after having my first panic attack in front of them, which was absolutely mortifying (they were, thankfully, incredibly kind and supportive). The most standard practice is as follows: not looking forward to eating, tries to distract self from prospect of eating, eventually is hungry enough to eat, tries to eat normally and not chew everything down to dust, but upon going to swallow less (but still thoroughly) chewed mouthfuls, clumps can be felt going down due to hypersensitivity, and lead to freak outs, meaning the rest of the attempted meal is incredibly uncomfortable and/or abandoned prematurely.

The other option is to chew everything down and only swallow once it is all pulverised, which takes forever makes it feel like even more of an unpleasant chore. Has anyone else been able to overcome this fear quickly? I do not wish to try any medications, due to my potential sensitivity, and am not sure whether I would gain anything from counselling, as I have already recognised this is primarily a mental problem where I didnít before. I know I have made some progress in the last few weeks, and no longer feel anxious constantly in the same way, but it is so frustrating to not be able to look forward to food/eat normally. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-11-17, 11:11
Bearandbean's Avatar
Bearandbean Bearandbean is offline
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 13
Re: Problems Eating

Hi fleece, sorry to hear that you've had some difficult times.

The first time I had the anxiety symptom of feeling like my throat was tight and somehow thought it would close up i was very scared. It was during a time where i was experiencing a lot of 'firsts' and didn't understand why these things were happening to me.

As it was the first time I went to the doctor to make sure it was definitely anxiety and he was very helpful in explaining that the neck muscles can become very tense and make it seem as though your throat is smaller, however it is most definitely not. Since the first time the symptom presented, if it happens again I totally know its related to anxiety and whilst it can sometimes still worry me a little I'm able to relax and wait for it to pass. Knowledge of how the neck/throat is so susceptible to stress helped me.

Have you tried any CBT/Breathing exercises/therapy?
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choking, eating, food, problems, swallowing

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