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Thread: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    Hello everyone

    I have been going through some horrible swallowing phobia to do with liquid and food recently that came about from a delightful blend of acid reflux and health anxiety and a lovely dollop of general anxiety. (disclaimer: anyone with swallowing issues should probably visit your gp as a first port of call, please don't worry)

    I just wanted to share some tips to help you that have slowly gotten me through it. I feel like a lot of lot of people write about an issue they are having and then don't post back to say how they got through it. I have seen a lot of people posting about this on anxiety forums and promised to myself I would post back if I found any methods or tips to help.

    Okay well this is a pretty nasty phobia so if you are reading and going through this you have my sympathy; but you can get through this. If I can, anybody can.

    You will have to be patient and not obsess (easy to say). Obsessing online will feed this phobia.

    Okay, I got pretty bad with this, I was scared to swallow even liquid. What I had to do was wait until I (and my frazzled mind) were tired. So first thing in the morning or in the early hours (you could set an alarm) 'test' yourself, I poured some berocca and took a tiny sip, I said to myself ok that works lets try another, only tiny sips and very slowly. This is the first step to undoing this anxiety (for me). You have to prove to your brain everything is fine.

    Okay the next tip along for me was getting rid of the 'hesitation' when swallowing, this was a bit scary because it was like my brain was 'convinced' that swallowing had to be controlled completely by me.

    So when I would forget and go to swallow as a reflex my throat would spasm and try to stop it.

    This is from obsessing on the process of swallowing. What I had to do was at that moment of swallowing form a strong fist (or grip an armchair handle) anything to distract, think of a time in my life when I was happy eating and then concentrate very fully on the squeeze of your fist or grip. Then swallow. This will help so you can start to 'undo' the process that has become anxious.

    Keep using these couple of strategies, take it slow, take however long you need to eat, drink, be nice to yourself, anxiety is horrible, you can't click your fingers and be better like that. Take it all slow, if you feel overwhelmed when trying. Stop. Go for a walk, read some nice stuff online, watch tv, do the dishes. Go back to it again.

    Think of the tips you would give someone else going through something like this, give them to yourself, love yourself. We are so quick to give others help and love, give yourself positive self talk be kind to yourself.

    Keep repeating the grip and distraction tip and confirming you can swallow by doing it when groggy. You will convince yourself and you will be ok.

    Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to try and help other people as I found this very challenging and scary but I wanted other people to know they'll be okay and if any of my little tips help anyone I will be really happy.
    Last edited by Pigoonlet; 21-11-16 at 11:54. Reason: added a sentence I left out

  2. #2

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    I have been going through this for awhile now when I try to swallow its like my throat has a spasm and sometimes it goes wrong and I get airlocked and I start gulping air and panic, after my choking fit I am scared to even try to drink anything for days. I will have try what you said

  3. #3

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    Quote Originally Posted by Dizzymat View Post
    I have been going through this for awhile now when I try to swallow its like my throat has a spasm and sometimes it goes wrong and I get airlocked and I start gulping air and panic, after my choking fit I am scared to even try to drink anything for days. I will have try what you said
    I know it's very tough but hang in there, treat it like other physical anxiety manifestations - any tips you use to get through them use on this too. Be kind to yourself; get enough sleep; talk to people around you, talk here. Lots of us have been through this exact anxiety symptom hence the whole section for it. Here if you need me or any advice.

  4. #4

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    Hi dizzymat,

    I am experiencing the same you are having, can you please advise me how you overcame, even after taking little water, i am feeling air and urge for burping, i am getting panic, i have not gone outside my house for the last 2 weeks. Please help


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2017

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    I know this is an old thread, but thanks for these tips, if you're still around.
    I had this odd phobia REALLY bad for about two years in my mid-teens, and I realised one day that it had gradually gone away and I didn't even notice, I was so pleased...

    It's coming back again now, and whenever I've had this problem, my whole body occasionally seems to spasm in a brief moment of panic, as some sort of odd reflex that I NEED to do before I end up swallowing. It's horrible. Someone would assume I'm ACTUALLY choking on something. Right now, liquids are USUALLY okay... The drier foods definitely make me really nervous though (although potato foods are strangely awful sometimes).

    To this day, I blatantly refuse to have anything to do with steak. That is, I think, THE worst food to encounter with this sort of phobia. I remember it taking me a couple of hours just to eat a few tiny bites, before I gave up.

    Whenever I'd had this problem in the past, I'd get so nervous about eating without someone else in the house, 'cause I'm so afraid of choking. I also assume it's become part of the reason why I have anxiety eating around people I don't know/haven't eaten around before.

    Bit of a long reply, but I guess I just wanted to talk about it... I'm gonna try these tips out when I have an episode - thank you again! ;-;
    I'm a 23-year-old goofball who distracts herself with videogames and anime to try and forget her overwhelming anxiety!~ ヽ( ̄ω ̄ ; )ゝ

  6. #6

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    Hello everyone. I understand this is an older thread but I found it in my search for some insight on how to defeat this fear. A little bit about my fear: It came out of nowhere. Seriously. Almost a week ago I was eating and drinking normally. It was a typical Wednesday night, I had eaten and drank normally that day until about 8 or 9 that night. I was drinking water when all of a sudden it was like I forgot how to drink. That freaked me out but I persisted.

    It just got worse. It got to the point where I couldn't swallow my own saliva for a few minutes. I had a massive anxiety attack. It felt like my throat wasn't working correctly. Eventually I went to bed and hoped for things to make sense the next day. Nope. Same deal, didn't feel like my throat was working correctly and I didn't trust my swallow. I didn't eat at all that day and barely managed to drink water, which was a whole ordeal in itself.

    That Thursday evening I went to the ER. They treated me for anxiety but didn't even look at my throat. Completely unhelpful. I went a couple more days with the swallowing problem, which I recognized grew into an actual fear of the act and total distrust of my ability to swallow. The following Monday I decided to visit a different hospital's emergency department. There, they took an MRI to see if I had MS or a stroke. Brain looked good so that was ruled out.

    I've been surviving on liquid meal replacements but I know I'm not getting enough nutrition as I'm losing weight and feel lousy. But, I found hope. I had to create a user name just so that I could post something that I found helpful, in case anyone else should be searching for answers, too. I'm still suffering from the fear but I feel like I've made a breakthrough. I'm desensitizing myself by using chewing gum.

    Chewing gum is triggering my swallow reflex, it's not something I'm consciously thinking about and I am not actively eating. I was able to take 2 bites of soft food today after chewing the gum for a couple hours! I'm hopeful that if I continue to mindlessly chew the gum, it'll retrain my brain to not fear swallowing since I'm not focused on it.

    I'm still going to make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist to actually check my swallow and I have an appointment with a therapist to help with the anxiety. But I really wanted to jump on here and offer any bit of help that I can because this fear is horrible.

    Good luck everyone and hang in there. There's more of us out there than you realize!

  7. #7

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    This is an old thread but it's good to hear that so many other people have this issue. For me it's the worst when I'm in school, it turns into the fear of even swallowing my own saliva and thinking I will be to loud resulting in it becoming harder to do and of course, louder. When I was younger I went a year eating little to nothing because of my fear of not being able to swallow. The tips I've seen are really helpful, thank you for that.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    , , United Kingdom.

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    ive been having this for a few months but has got a lot worse the last few days /weeks ,I find that sometimes its an issue and others not ,but especially in front of people the fear of choking is stopping me drinking.
    I have actually choked a few times ,which is I guess what has set me off .
    how do I over come this though .
    my dr has refered me to ent which is a fear in itself .
    I have been on this foram before several years ago ,I don't want to go down the fesar rd again ,this time its different as do choke at times.

    im driving myself mad ,im not fearful of death just the method and choking is not the way to go .im panicking now

  9. #9

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    So I just wanted to pop back on with an update. I've still found that chewing gum helps a lot.

    These are the things that I've done that have allowed me to at least begin to start eating and drinking small bits again:
    Had an MRI to rule out any abnormalities of the brain. Because at the time, I didn't know it was anxiety related. I just thought there was something wrong with my throat and swallow reflex or organizing the swallow. The MRI was clean, which was great to know, actually lol.

    I had a FEES swallow study, which is where they stick a camera up through your sinus and down into the top of your throat and watch you swallow foods that have been dyed and in different consistencies. CUE MAJOR PANIC. But I survived. And my swallow was fine. Even if it FELT anything but fine. They played the recording back to me and I could see that my throat was working. Helped IMMENSELY. But didn't cure the fear right away.

    I started talk therapy with a therapist that I'm comfortable with. He's just there to listen and have conversations with, but I think that's something that's vastly underrated. Non-judgmental conversations about your thoughts is absolutely beneficial.

    I talked to my primary care doctor about anti-anxiety medication. I've been very anti-medication for many years now, I wouldn't even take cold medication or anything for a headache. But honestly, I needed the help because I wasn't cutting it doing it myself. I needed to take the edge off the fear and anxiety in order to start facing the facts: I need to eat and drink to stay alive. I can't continue like this. So, I was prescribed something for anxiety, which can dissolve in my mouth. I also have an SSRI for longer term anxiety maintenance but I have yet to work up the courage to start that.

    I started trying foods of different consistencies while HUNGRY and after allowing the anti-anxiety meds to start to work. I'm able to tolerate some textures now, mostly ones that tend to stay together more like small crackers and cookies, but it's a start. The crumbly textures still throw me for a loop and liquids are a bit of a challenge still. But I have made so much progress in just a few days.

    Hopefully some of this can help someone here and I will continue to update with my progress.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Re: Tips to overcome fear of swallowing

    I know this is an old post but i am really struggling with this swallowing anxiety right now. Does it get better??? I feel like im never gonna be able to enjoy my food ever again :(

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