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Thread: Choking on food, anxiety and OCD - urgent advice needed

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Choking on food, anxiety and OCD - urgent advice needed

    Hi everyone,

    Hoping someone can advise since it's going to be at least a week before I can see a doctor and probably months subsequent to that before a referral therapy comes through, unless I go private (haven't had much luck with therapists so far though)

    I am stuck in an infinite anxiety and OCD loop and it's the result of frequent choking on food/difficulty swallowing which didn't start until I was on sertraline - I came off sertraline 3 months ago and am still choking on food the odd time, especially things like chicken and steak but it has even happened with small bites of toast and even scrambled eggs.

    I know it is anxiety related, deep down I know that as this has coincided with other stress in my life which obviously made me very tense, but now that I'm off medication it is troubling me to the point where I am now obsessing and avoiding eating. To even think about food or look at pictures of food is making my heart race. I am managing a small bowl or porridge and a small bowl of scrambled eggs daily and that's basically it.

    My question is: has any body experienced this type of OCD as a direct result of actual choking? I know sensorimotor OCD can be quite common, especially with swallowing, and i know the treatment involves exposure and response prevention, but I wouldn't be obsessing over it if I hadn't had a few scary choking moments over the last few weeks. Now I'm upset over the fact that I have been treating this the wrong way by using reassurance and distraction instead of "facing the fear" - my thoughts are all over the place and I'm terrified.

    Here is a timeline of the last few months if it can help anyone who's been through the same advise me on if I should be treating the anxiety or treating the OCD (to me, it feels OCD is a symptom of the anxiety and not the other way around):

    1. Came off medication
    2. Immediately went through a relationship breakup (imagine waiting until the week someone is coming off their meds after 3 years to break up with them lol)
    3. Difficulty swallowing/choking on food still present for couple months after this but not to the extent of being worried
    4. Found out 3 weeks ago ex-partner was cheating and that's why I was broke up with, but didn't really care anymore - in fact looked at it as closure and that I hadn't done anything wrong
    5. The week I found out was at a family meal and was eating steak, didn't choke but found it difficult to get down
    6. Spent the next week obsessing and worrying over swallowing difficulties but used reassurance and distraction which seemed to be helping: things like reading this forum about others who have difficulty swallowing as an anxiety symptom, and telling myself I've had this before and it never developed in to anything more, distracting myself while eating etc
    7. Finally started feeling a bit better after a week or two, went on a night out with friends, of course the alcohol exaccerbated everything and I stressed so much about eating and got worked up, finally plucked up the courage to make something and it was all going well until I choked on the last bite!
    8. That was on Sunday, and now I have not been able to even entertain the idea of eating anything solid. I feel like I'm never going to be able to eat a meal with my family or friends ever again. My mind does not feel like my own and it's so scary - I normally love eating :(

    So when I looked up some resolutions for treating sensorimotor OCD it obviously involves ERP and CBT. This week I have tried things like: purposely worrying about it at set times (delaying the thoughts and then consciously worrying about them without any positive counteraction), consciously thinking about choking while eating and trying not to react with anxiety, trying not to push the thoughts away and be present with uncertainty. I still feel awful.

    In contrast, the techniques I tried last week when I was treating it with an anxiety included: self-reassurance (reading similar experiences on NMP), distracting myself by keeping busy with house work and hobbies (I am still trying to do this at times but feel under pressure to give time to negative thoughts about choking), making myself eat when I didn't want to but distracting myself while swallowing by clenching my fist and focusing on a time I felt happy eating (I picked that up on this forum somewhere, thanks to whoever wrote it because it did help at the time)

    Last week when I felt myself coming around a little I was so relieved and happy, but as soon as I choked again it's just got so much worse.

    So what do I do? Surely if I treated my anxiety with relaxation I might be less likely to choke on my food as my muscles are relaxed, but in the long wrong - is it better to treat the actual fear and obsession of choking that has set in purely as a result of this anxiety symptom?

    Please help I can't live like this much longer :(

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2015

    Re: Choking on food, anxiety and OCD - urgent advice needed

    Anyone???? :(

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2021

    Re: Choking on food, anxiety and OCD - urgent advice needed

    Not really sure I have got anything helpful to say. I just wanted to let you know someone had read this.

    I would keep on using the techniques you are using. Sometimes it takes our bodies a while to reset and get the hang of things.

    There's no shame in asking for help, you could contact your GP, try and see someone to guide you through the CBT techniques.

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