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Author Topic: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia  (Read 515 times)

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Offline SE4000

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Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« on: May 20, 2014, 12:00:56 AM »
A few years ago I choked on a small piece of food for a few seconds before finally coughing it out. I could barely breathe and made horrible noises until I tried to cough.

Since then I've been eating much more slowly than other people and it gets annoying. It has suddenly gotten worse and now I can't really eat without doing stupid things, like holding on to the table to "brace" myself to swallow, having to time it with my swallowing, and only swallowing small amounts of food at a time. It's gotten to the point that it became difficult to swallow even liquids.

A few days ago it was so bad that I couldn't even swallow my own saliva. Even today I've had trouble with that. It's still difficult to swallow water, but I'm getting enough thankfully.

I also have trouble swallowing pills.

But eating around other people has become embarrassing and even annoying to the other people around me. So I think I finally should get treated for this, and I have a few questions

How long does the therapy last? Just a few sessions, or several weeks? I don't want to know what to expect in it, I'd rather find out when I get to it. How do I find a therapist? Would my GP refer me?

Has anyone else gone through therapy like this and had good results?

Finally, any words of encouragement, reassuring words? I heard some people say that it's actually very difficult to choke, but I was choking on a small piece of food and it didn't seem so difficult to me. So that's very frightening and every meal is a terrible challenge. I just want to enjoy food and eat as fast as anyone else does.
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Offline Cuchculan

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 05:20:00 AM »
I am sure it could be treated. You could visit your GP to begin with. Ask has he got any good suggestions for a therapist. It wouldn't be the same as your normal therapy. As it is a bit of different kind of problem. I think you simply need to learn to trust yourself and food again. I can't say what approach a therapist would take. Yes, you would talk for a while. To explain the issues you are having. Therapist, if good, might get you to bring some food to a session. Something soft. Banana or something like that. Get you to eat it in front of him. Not saying this will happen. If it me doing the therapy I would use this approach. So you have the support there beside you as you face up to your fear. It is all about training the mind to understand that just because something happened once, that does not mean it will happen again. Probably take a few sessions. Depending on how good the therapist is. It is an issue that can be fixed. You might be pushed hard by the therapist. But that happens for own good.
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Offline livelaughlove

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 06:48:11 AM »
I strongly recommend you see a gastroenterologist and get an upper endoscopy as well as a motility study of some kind. A family physician can't give you the advice you need and an ENT cannot either... other than only checking the vocal cord area of your throat. THis will rule out if you have a stricture or narrowing. If it is a motility problem... then your autonomic nervous system is out of whack but you can correct that with proper diet, living healthy, avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking... exercise and stretching... meditation. Basically get things out of your life that stress you out and also learn ways to deal with stress of things that you just are gonna have to deal with and can't get rid of. Also have your thyroid tested. If you have been on a PPI like nexium for a long while (more than 8 weeks) then have magnesium checked. That can cause the globus sensation. So can thyroid disease and if it is thyroid (which most everyone gets by age 60) then you just take thyroid meds. Do you have tonsils? Is your mouth dry? Try flushing tonsils out twice a day with a water pik you can buy from bed bath and beyond. Switch to biotene toothpaste and mouthwash to help keep the flora in your mouth balanced.
Now for the sphycosomatic issues... eating in front of people is a very common fear. I beleive it comes down to a problem that people with control issues have. When you say you brace the table when you swallow.... that is a control thing... by bracing the table it helps you swallow, so by taking control of a different muscle group ( your hands and arms by pushing on the table which is an isometric) it takes tension away from your throat. Subliminally you doing an isometric type thing to help you swallow. I think cognitive behavioural therapy or learning more isometric type exercises would actually help you.. it would teach you ways of how to deal. Right now everything is worse because you are SO focused on your throat area. You need to keep busy so you don't focus on your throat. But you should see someone that can teach you techniques because eventually you will get over the throat thing, but then you will likely focus on something else. It's kind of an OCD/control issue that is very common and many people are exactly like you so you are not alone!
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Offline SE4000

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2014, 02:12:41 PM »
I really don't believe this is a physical problem. Two days ago I couldn't even swallow my own saliva. This problem developed very rapidly. I'm also too young to have some of the problems you're talking about (24).

I'm not afraid of eating in front of people, I'm having the same problems whether I'm in front of anyone or not. I eat too slowly because I have to chew more thoroughly than normal, because I'm afraid of choking. My throat muscles tense up and sometimes my throat "misfires" and I swallow very slowly, and that causes a mini-panic and makes me want to stop eating. I've been struggling even with water, just because I'm overthinking it.

Not that long ago I ate very normally because I was completely distracted by something nice. That was before this all took a turn for the worse.

I'm eating normal meals again, but it's just a struggle. I just want to eat like a normal person.
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Offline SE4000

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2014, 02:33:53 AM »
Well, I was doing okay eating my food today. I felt I was getting better. Then I proceeded to drink some water and it started going down the wrong pipe, which has happened a few times since this all started. When that happens it feels as if I can't breathe for a second, even after I spit the water out or swallow it. Then it feels like my windpipe or something in my throat is irritated, which has a gagging feeling to it. I can't believe I just ate dinner and then had trouble swallowing water. It took over an hour to eat dinner.

I have had this problem for years, but it just now got this bad. I cannot take it anymore. I just went almost back to square one today with this incident.

I thought I was getting better so I didn't make an appointment, but now I'm going to go see my GP as soon as possible to discuss this. I just can't take it anymore. Eating slowly in front of my family and friends, getting piece of food stuck in my throat, I can't take it. I can't even swallow my own spit sometimes. I can't even drink water. I'm going to die. I have to see a doctor.

I want to be able to eat my meals as fast as my friends and family do, and I want to be able to enjoy my food without worrying. I am done with this. I am absolutely done. I am seeing someone this week if I can.
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Offline Lola85

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 02:28:52 PM »
Hi,

I just read your post and I completely understand what your going through and how hard it is. I have been dealing with the same thing on and off since I was 12 (I'm 28 now). For a lot of years I coped ok if I had a drink with every meal and if I ate foods that were softer and easier to swallow, I also found it easier eating in front of the tv to try and distract myself. Unfortunately last year I changed jobs and everything flared back up to the point where I now pretty much live on soup, watsits, yoghurt, chocolate and very little else. It's so frustrating. Like you I tense up when eating and sometimes find it near enough possible to get the food down. I sometimes feel like I've forgotten how to swallow if that makes sense, like its not an automatic response anymore. I too overthink swallowing and it just makes it a hundred times worse, as soon as I think about swallowing its like my throat constricts and my whole body tenses in order to stop me from swallowing.
  I choked on a piece of apple when I was younger and that's what triggered it. I became fearful of food because I was scared of choking. I've tried CBT, relaxation, medication but nothing has ever helped me. Although I did quit CBT without doing the full course (which I now regret). Sorry for not being much help with giving advice on how to overcome it but I just wanted to say that I empathise completely. Do you know why you are anxious swallowing? How are you doing now? I really hope that you get help for it because its an awful thing to deal with. Let me know how you get on? Laura :)
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Offline SE4000

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2014, 08:36:11 PM »
I would rather not have read that story. I'm extremely depressed at the moment and I cannot deal with the idea that I may never recover. I have to drink drops of water and I'm very, very afraid of the air conditioner breaking or going outside on a hot day because I drink water so slowly. I eat very slowly and simply have a technique for eating that involves tilting my head down, almost upside down, before I swallow.

It has absolutely, 100% taken over my life. I am not a functional human being anymore. I am confined to my room and cannot work, play, or go anywhere. I must eat almost for the entire day. I get about 1-2 hours a day of rest before having to eat very, very, very, very slowly until the next meal. I can barely swallow liquids. I am somehow still alive, but I don't know how much longer I can last.

I am still trying to get a referral for a therapist who can help me. I am extremely, absolutely scared that he will not be able to help me. I am undergoing therapy for general anxiety right now and cannot stop focusing on my dry mouth while I'm there.

This may be the worst thing that can happen to anyone next to cancer. I couldn't wish this on my worst enemy. It is absolute daily torture and I don't know how much longer I can stand this without some hope for help. I still can't believe this happened to me and I'm completely angry that it did. I would trade this for diabetes. I would trade this for any other phobia. I would trade this for amnesia. I would lose my memory for the past few months if I could get rid of this, or even the past year. I would trade this for one of the more survivable cancers. I am not kidding. This is completely, absolutely, entirely torture. I do not have a life anymore. I am finished. I can never be happy again. I can never enjoy anything again. My life is just eating small bites of food and drops of water until I die.
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Offline rubywoo

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2014, 12:35:05 PM »
Hiya,

I've already commented on one of lolas own posts, but just seen yours so thought I would just mention...

I saw a programme on TV the other day which was about a man with swallowing difficulties. It was on ITV if you live on the UK, so you should be able to get in on catch up?? It was ‘The Speakmans’, they actually ‘cured’ him by the end, but I don’t really understand their methods so can’t comment on that, just thought it would be useful for you to see someone with a similar problem and to give you hope that you can get better :)
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Offline jpabloz

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Re: Wondering about treatment for swallowing/choking phobia
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2014, 01:56:55 PM »
Hey guys,
Have had this problem for about 8 years now. Almost died 2 years in from having not eaten anything at all, even liquids, and now suffer from digestive and vitamin deficiency disorders. I have made things more manageable and can drink water with some kind of fear, but when I choke I go into full blown panic mode. What has helped is doing a series of affirmations. Talk to yourself like a snotty teenage girl. When you're fearful say things like "yeah right I cant drink water(sarcastically), I can do this I am able to do this".  Expose yourself to more and more of what you're fearful of the most and talk yourself through it....hope this helps guys and good luck to you.
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