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Can Anxiety Cause Difficulty Swallowing

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What Is Difficulty Swallowing

Pill Swallowing Difficulty: Cause and Treatments (Pill Dysphagia)

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, occurs when the muscles and nerves that allow you to swallow become irritated, compressed, or damaged. It is more common with age.

It may feel like food is stuck in your throat or chest, or cause coughing, heartburn, pain when swallowing, regurgitation , and drooling.

Sometimes, difficulty swallowing is caused by something simple, like eating too fast or poor chewing. But it can be caused by physical issues with your esophagus, such as a blockage or swelling. Or it may be a sign of a serious condition, such as cancer or a stroke.

Treatment may include medication, endoscopy, or surgery.

Pro Tip

Difficulty swallowing causes a lot of discomfort, but it can also lead to aspiration, which is when food or liquid gets into the airways instead of the esophagus. Everyone aspirates a little bit, but when people have difficulty swallowing, they can aspirate more, which can lead to pneumonia. Dr. Judy Kim

If After Trying These Suggestions Your Symptoms Persist Or New Symptoms Appear Please Contact Your Gp

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What Conditions Can Cause Swallowing Problems

Possible causes of swallowing difficulties can include:

  • Nervous system and brain disorders: Certain conditions affect your brain and nervous system . Parkinsons disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and stroke can lead to swallowing difficulties.
  • Muscle disorders: Myasthenia gravis and muscular dystrophy affect muscles all over the body. Disorders of the esophagus, such as achalasia, systemic sclerosis , cricopharyngeal spasms and esophageal spasms can affect your ability to swallow.
  • Esophagus narrowing and blockages: Esophageal cancer, a tumor or a swollen thyroid gland can constrict the esophagus . A narrowed esophagus can make swallowing a challenge. Some people develop webs or Schatzki rings . This tissue narrows the tube and makes it hard to swallow chunks of food. Disorders of the opening of the esophagus can also contribute to difficulty swallowing such as cricopharyngeal hypertrophy. Swallowing can be difficult or impossible if anything is stuck in your throat.
  • Scarring from acid reflux: Scar tissue can form in your esophagus as a result of GERD . GERD can lead to Barretts esophagus .
  • Infection: Tonsillitis causes pain and inflammation. It can make swallowing painful.

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Exercise 2 Abdominal Breathing

  • Sit comfortably in a chair and place your hands on your tummy.
  • Blow out sharply, as if blowing up a balloon. As you blow out, your tummy and hands should move in.
  • Your shoulders and upper chest should be still and relaxed. At the end of the breath out, relax your tummy it should expand naturally, allowing your lungs to re-inflate.
  • When you feel comfortable with this technique, produce a soft /sss/ sound on the out-breath.

Whats The Connection Between Anxiety And Throat Symptoms

Anxiety Disorders 8 Nov

When youre under stress or feeling anxious, your body reacts by releasing adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. In addition to increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, the release of these hormones can lead to a variety of physical responses, such as:

  • rapid, shallow breathing

found that visceral anxiety is one of the strongest predictors of the severity of dysphagia.

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How To Reduce The Anxiety From Swallowing Difficulty

If you find that you’re having trouble swallowing, the first thing to do is take a slow breath. By taking a slow breath, youre often able to relax sufficiently to realize that you’re not actually choking on the food – it’s just taking its time going down your throat.

See if you can swallow a bit of water as well. Water tends to be easier to swallow than other foods and liquids. As long as you can swallow water, you’ll be able to remind yourself that your swallowing reflex does work and that perhaps you’re simply overthinking the problem.

Also, distractions are helpful. During periods of intense anxiety, you need to stop focusing so much on the sensations you’re experiencing. You can’t always stop your panic attack immediately once it’s started, but you can try to head it off by distracting yourself so that you’re not focusing so much on the swallowing reflex. You can try:

These strategies can decrease the severity of your anxiety or panic symptoms. If your anxiety levels are lowered, you reduce the likelihood of feeling like you have trouble swallowing.

Hot Drinks To Relieve Dry Throat At Night

A cup of tea or water might help relieve an itchy throat at home. The best option would be to use green tea or chamomile tea. The two are a great choice for relieving itching, dryness, and irritation of mouth and throat.

When the dry throat I accompanied by nasal blockage or coughing, you might make the remedy even more effective by adding raw honey or some amounts of lemon juice.

This what you need to do:

  • Into a cup of hot water add a tea bag of green tea
  • Add a tablespoon of water and gently stir
  • Into the mixture add free drop of fresh lemon juice
  • Sip the mixture will hot
  • You might want to do this twice or thrice during the night

Also Read: Crackling in lungs and dry cough, how to stop

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Oral Or Pharyngeal Muscle Dysfunction

A disorder of the nerves and muscles in the throat can weaken the muscles and make someone choke or gag when swallowing. Examples include:

  • cerebral palsy: a disorder that affects muscle movement and coordination
  • birth defects, such as cleft palate
  • myasthenia gravis: a neuromuscular disorder that causes weakness in the muscles used for movement symptoms include trouble talking, facial paralysis, and difficulty swallowing
  • a head injury that damages the nerves or muscles in the throat

Why Do I Have A Hard Time Swallowing

Overcome anxiety and fear of swallowing

Generally, no. Anxiety does not cause difficulty swallowing. It can, however, cause dry mouth which can cause difficulty chewing and swallowing particularly dry foods like crackers. Other common causes of difficulty swallowing are a common cold or sore throat and allergies. Why do I feel like I have a lump in my throat?

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Difficulty Swallowing Can Be Caused By Anxiety

Sometimes emotional distress, such as anxiety, can lead to difficulty swallowing or the fear of choking. Most people might take swallowing for granted, but for some who suffer from anxiety, difficulty swallowing makes every meal a challenge. It may leave you feeling like you are choking, or feeling like there’s a lump or something stuck in the throat. Difficulty swallowing may take more time and effort to move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach. In some cases, you may not be able to swallow at all.

The causes of swallowing difficulties vary, and treatments depend upon the cause. In some cases, the condition can be partially or completely corrected. Swallowing difficulties are definitely something that needs to be discussed with your health care professional. Often difficulty swallowing isn’t caused for concern and may occur only when you don’t chew your food good enough, or you eat to fast.

There are many muscles and nerves that affect the functions of these parts. Much of the act of swallowing is under your control. However, most of the swallowing is involuntary. Often, symptoms such as chest pain, food stuck in the throat, or heaviness are the result of difficulty swallowing.

There are several causes of swallowing difficulty. Usually, problems related to the upper areas of the mouth and throat include:

  • Emotional or Anxiety Disorders

Nerve and muscle problems such as:

  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Infections, Such as Polio and Syphilis Polymyositis

Should I Be Worried About Difficulty Swallowing

Everyone gets a lump of food stuck in their throat from time to time. It can happen when you eat too quickly or dont chew your food all the way. However, if you frequently have difficulty swallowing , it may be due to a serious condition that requires medical treatment.

Dysphagia falls into several different categories. Esophageal dysphagia is the most common one, and it refers to the feeling of food getting caught in your throat or chest when you swallow. Some causes of esophageal dysphagia include:

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When Should I Call My Doctor About Difficulty Swallowing

You should see your doctor to determine the cause of your swallowing difficulties. Call a doctor right away if youre also having trouble breathing or think something might be stuck in your throat. If you have sudden muscle weakness or paralysis and cant swallow at all, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/24/2020.


What To Do When You Have Trouble Swallowing Food

Social Anxiety Disorder

If you find that youre having trouble swallowing, the first thing to do is take a slow breath. By taking a slow breath, youre often able to relax sufficiently to realize that youre not actually choking on the food its just taking its time going down your throat. See if you can swallow a bit of water as well.

Generally, no. Anxiety does not cause difficulty swallowing. It can, however, cause dry mouth which can cause difficulty chewing and swallowing particularly dry foods like crackers. Other common causes of difficulty swallowing are a common cold or sore throat and allergies. Why do I feel like I have a lump in my throat?

Yes, it can! As mentioned before, stress brings with it a myriad of problems which can often make you wonder what is it exactly to youre suffering from. Most of you would not connect stress with a lot of symptoms it can give rise to, but stress has some major effects on health and how the body reacts.

To those with anxiety, the difference between being unable to swallow and simply not swallowing is very slim, and the fear that develops very real. Also, dont forget that your body is very tense when youre suffering from anxiety, and this may cause problems with the swallowing reflex as well.

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How To Prevent Dry Throat At Night

A home, you can prevent the inside of your mouth from becoming dry by doing the following:

  • Make sure you increase your fluids intake to make sure your body is always hydrated
  • Avoid sleeping with your mouth open, especially during the night
  • Cut your consumption of alcohol, coffee, and tobacco
  • Reduce the amount of sugar and sugary drinks
  • Be very careful with the mouthwash you use. Avoid alcohol-based mouthwash that might worsen dry mouth
  • Schedule regular appointments with your healthcare provider

Dry Throat Every Night

According to the National Health Services UK, it I quite common to have a dry throat at night or during the day. This is common especially when one is dehydrated or feeling nervous.

A persistent dry mouth or a feeling of dry throat every night can be a clear sign of an underlying medical condition.

It is recommended you visit your dentist or primary health care provider as soon as possible. A common cause of dry mouth and throat occurs when your salivary gland in your mouth fail to secrete enough saliva.

A constant dry mouth can be a sign that your body is dehydrated. Dehydration means your body lacks enough fluids need to produce saliva. Other causes of persistent dry mouth are when you are feeling anxious or nervous.

Urgent medical diagnosis is required to establish what the underlying cause of the dryness might be. This way, it is easy to treat and get rid of the dryness that night affecting you every night.

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Lump In The Throat / Tight Throat

The sensation of a lump in the throat is very similar to the sensation of a tight throat. They have similar causes too.

So Ive grouped them together.

Why Does Anxiety Cause a Lump in the Throat and a Tight Throat?

There are 3 ways that anxiety can cause a lump in the throat sensation or a tight throat:

  • acid reflux with anxiety often causing excess stomach acid theres more chance that some of it will reflux into your throat. If this occurs for long enough the acid will irritate your throat, causing a lump in the throat sensation or a tight throat
  • post nasal drip if your anxiety causes hypersensitivity youre more likely to become allergic to something. An allergy will produce excess mucus in the back of your nose and throat. When the excess mucus trickles down your throat it can make you feel like you have something stuck in your throat or that you have a tight throat
  • muscle tension theres a ring of muscle in your throat that opens and closes to let food down into your stomach. When youre anxious this muscle can become tense, causing the feeling that something is stuck in your throat or that your throat is tight
How to Stop a Lump in the Throat and a Tight Throat Caused by Anxiety

Theres a different approach to stopping these sensations in your throat depending on which of the causes is responsible.

Fear Of Certain Foods

My Anxiety // Swallowing

Some people have a fear of certain types of foods and this can trigger phagophobia. For example, some people have a persistent fear of eating contaminated food. This may lead to phagophobia.

Many times, Phagophobia is triggered by a negative or traumatic experience while drinking or eating. As an example, one of my clients had a previous experience with choking that led to his phagophobia. Being hit in the throat may also lead to future phagophobia.

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Loss Of Sphincter Muscle Relaxation

Where the esophagus and stomach meet each other there is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter . This muscle relaxes when you swallow to allow food to pass. In people with achalasia, the LES doesnt relax.

Achalasia is thought to be a result of an autoimmune condition, in which your immune system mistakenly attacks nerve cells in your esophagus. Other symptoms include pain after eating and heartburn.

What Causes The Sensation That There Is Something In Your Throat

Many people who experience this sensation regularly and strongly become concerned that may be a real lump inside their throat, and often are frightened they may have throat cancer. However, in the absence of other symptoms such as real dysphagia, ear pain, a palpable neck lump or bleeding, the chances of a lump sensation being due to cancer are very small..The real cause of the lump feeling is a tightening of the muscles of the throat. There are over forty muscles making the throat work and they are all finely tuned and sensitive. Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that the throat is one of the commonest areas to tighten up when we are anxious.

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Long Term Anxiety Reduction

Difficulty swallowing is a symptom of anxiety, so on its own it is difficult to stop without some type of broader intervention. You’ll need to find a way to stop experiencing anxiety symptoms overall if you want to avoid difficulties with swallowing. What can you do to control your anxiety in the long term?

First, always visit the doctor. While trouble swallowing is very often an anxiety symptom, you’ll want to be sure that you’re not suffering from acid reflux or any of the other disorders that can contribute to the issue. Those types of disorders can be treated separately, and knowing that you do or don’t have them is an important part of controlling anxiety.

You’ll then need to commit to an effective anxiety reduction program – one based on your anxiety symptoms so that you will be able to experience less overall anxiety. You should look into local therapy options, particularly therapists that work with cognitive behavioral therapy. There are also medication options available and plenty of effective self-help techniques to consider. Anxiety is a manageable condition, so consider taking an opportunity to start addressing it.


Anxiety itself doesnt make it harder to swallow, but it does lead to an overall awareness of the throat muscles that may cause issues with swallowing. It helps to understand why these issues occur in order to treat them. There are some strategies that can make swallowing easier, but addressing anxiety overall should be a priority.

What Does It Mean To Have Difficulty Swallowing

Dry Mouth Difficulty Swallowing Anxiety

When we swallow, many muscles and nerves work together to get food or drink from our mouths into our stomachs. Trouble with swallowing can originate anywhere in the mouth, throat or esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube in your throat that carries food and water to your stomach.

Swallowing problems can be mild or severe. The treatment varies depending on whats causing the problem. Sometimes, doctors can prescribe medication to help you swallow. If youre unable to swallow anything at all, you may need a feeding tube to get the nourishment you need.

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Dry Throat Only At Night

For most people, dry throat or mouth is a common condition that often occurs at night. It is a common symptom of dehydration that causes your salivary glands not to produce enough saliva.

Saliva inside your mouth helps fight the bacterial infection that causes tooth decay and bad breath. Though common during the night, the dry throat can occur at any time of the day.

Dry throat at night can affect your oral health, and cause lack of sleep. The common cause of this condition is dehydration. So drinking plenty of water and other fluids might help prevent the dryness in the first place.

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