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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fear of Throat Closing Up: A Common Phobia and Obsession

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Anxiety is a general feeling of worry and discomfort—you know that shaky, unsettling feeling you get before a big speech or a first date?  For some of us, it can be adaptive.  If we are faced with a life-threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response in the brain gets activated and we react spontaneously and efficiently. For others, anxiety is a pervasive, debilitating state that our minds and bodies are constantly battling. Anxiety no longer serves a healthy function—rather, it prohibits us from moving forward in different areas of our lives.
Anxiety is not just a feeling—it is literally a state of being.  Our bodies change when we become anxious. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, our immune system is affected, and our brain responds by releasing hormones, which activate that fight-or-flight response.  The lungs increase the oxygen intake and the scalp tightens so it literally feels like your hair is ‘standing up.’ Another way the body responds to anxiety is that fluids are diverted from the mouth and throat to other more essential areas.  This may explain why stress often produces dryness in the mouth and throat. If you pay attention to people giving speeches, they likely sip water frequently to counteract the dryness. In more severe cases, like those who suffer from anxiety disorders, it can even feel like the throat is literally closing up.
Now, the throat closing up can be an extremely terrifying phenomenon.  This is true, especially if one is unfamiliar with what is going on and experiencing an anxiety attack for the first time.  Throat closure can lead to difficulty breathing and swallowing.  It can create shortness of breath and even lead the person to ‘black out.’  Fear of the throat closing up and fear of not being able to swallow is a real issue that affects a lot of people who have anxiety.  It is no wonder that more and more people are now developing a phobia of the throat closing up.
Anxiety doctors are very knowledgeable about this sensation.  The throat closure phobia is linked to panic symptoms and panic disorders.  As mentioned before, that knot-like feeling in the throat or the tightening of the muscles is caused by our body’s reaction to stress.  It can also be related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, in which one engages in repetitive actions to avoid distressing thoughts.  A person might constantly clear their throat or cough in order to ensure that their throat is not actually closing up.  Whether the phobia of throat closure occurs from panic attacks or OCD, there is a definite need to see an anxiety specialist.
Anxiety doctors help you identify and address your fears and work with you to reduce and eliminate negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.  Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an anxiety doctor can help you better understand the phobia of the throat closing up and teach you techniques and skills to overcome the fear.  CBT tackles not only the throat-closing phobia, but it treats all of the components that comprise an anxiety disorder.  CBT is the most effective psychological treatment for anxiety disorders and phobias, as proven in the literature and research.
As always, it is important that one seek out help as soon as possible in order to conquer anxiety disorders.  This is true, especially for those who have a fear of the throat closing up or a fear of not being able to breathe. There are skilled anxiety doctors at the April Center that can help youto overcome your anxiety so that you can live a peaceful and fulfilling life.

All the best,  
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

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The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles and The South Bay

The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management is committed to helping you remove the destructive barriers of anxiety, so that you may lead a calmer, healthier, happier life.

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