Fear of Swallowing, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Fear of swallowing, or phagophobia , is a relatively rare and quite specific phobia. It is sometimes confused with pseudodysphagia or fear of drowning. The biggest difference is that people with phagophobia are afraid of the act of swallowing, while people with pseudo-dysphagia are afraid that swallowing will lead to suffocation.


Both fears are sometimes confused with medical conditions such as dysphagia and odynophagia, in which a physiological disorder causes difficulty or pain when swallowing. But of course, people with these conditions probably want nothing more than to be able to swallow and eat normally – phophobics generally don’t.

You may also be interested in reading: Fear Of Medical Procedures: Classification, Treatments

Causes of fear of swallowing

Ironically, phagophobia is one of the few phobias that can lead to the dreaded disease. The anxiety and stress often feel like a lump in my throat because anxiety can cause the throat muscles constrict.

Those who fear swallowing often find themselves physically unable to do so. This, in turn, can make fear worse, creating a cycle of self-replication that is difficult to break.

Phagophobia is often, but not always, triggered by a negative experience. Perhaps you tried to eat while nervous about something else and found that food did not go down easily, or you were choking. Perhaps you have other food fears and tried to force yourself to eat something that made you uncomfortable.

You may have had a sore throat and experienced scratching or pain when swallowing. However, phagophobia can also occur in the absence of any identifiable trigger.


Because the throat muscles often contract during anxiety attacks, coping strategies generally focus on staying calm. Some people find that watching TV or listening to music while eating provides a welcome distraction that makes chewing and swallowing a less intense and unique experience.

Others find that taking a sip of liquid with each bite makes the swallowing process easier. Still others avoid foods that seem harsh or tough to them. Finding your comfort zone is often a matter of trial and error.

If your fear is more serious, professional assistance may be required. Phagophobia sometimes worsens over time, leading to eating habits gradually becoming more restricted. This, in turn, can affect the overall health of the body – it is very difficult to maintain a healthy diet with severe phagophobia.

Fortunately, phagophobia responds well to a variety of treatment options. Your therapist will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses not only phagophobia but also any related disorders. With a little hard work, there is no reason for fear of swallowing to take over your life.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.