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Fear Of Choking

Question:

Dear Dr. Schwartz,

I am a 32 year old female and ever since I was a 4 year old child I was diagnosed with a multitude of things. I was diagnosed with everything from Major Anxiety Disorder to, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Agoraphobia, PTSD, Short Term Memory Loss and a few more that I can’t remember.

To say the least, my childhood sucked and I feared dying on a daily basis. I have struggled with trusting people for most of my life. I don’t see a therapist or anyone, to be honest, because I end up not trusting them. I work from home and receive disability.

My issue today is that out of nowhere, it seems that I have developed a fear of choking about 6 months ago. I realize that this is an anxiety of dying and that the choking fear is a symptom of that initial anxiety. But, it is taking over my life. I went from being a meat eater to only eating vegetables. Then, from a vegetarian to a vegan and now only liquids. When I ate solids it seemed that my food seemed to get stuck in the back of my throat. No matter how long I chewed my food I still panicked, believing that I was going to choke on chewed up food.

I despise all of my diagnoses as well as this new fear. I feel like I am being tortured by my mind. Can you please suggest any type of help or solution for me?

Thank You so much.

Sincerely

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Answer:

It is understandable that you hate all of your diagnoses. People are not diagnoses. They are people with individual personalities and characteristics. However, from what you write, you do seem to experience a lot of anxiety and that is preventing you from doing so much of what you like. Anxiety is an important emotion that we need because it warns us of danger ahead. Because human beings are complicated, they experience painful amount of painful anxiety even when there is an absence of danger. Always, when experiencing this emotion, we seek to escape it either by fleeing or fighting. Most human beings want to flee when they nervousness takes over.

Depending on what a person fears, they try to escape by avoiding situations that they believe cause their fears. For example, they will avoid certain foods that they believe will hurt them, or not leave the house for fear of some danger outside, or avoid any number of situations that they associate with danger.

The problem with anxiety is that, left untreated, spreads like a virus. So, what may start as a fear of elevators can gradually spread to anything with the end result of fearing just about anything. This is why it feels like it’s taken over your life.

What is the best way to treat this type of thing? In fact, what is the best way of treating many psychological problems? The answer often is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also known as CBT. Here, you and the therapist identify the exaggerated thinking that increases fear and depression. Once identified, you and the therapist work on forming new, healthier thoughts to replace those that were exaggerated. Part of this is also learning to replace the ones that are avoidant. Part of CBT is also replacing avoidant behaviors with those that are healthier.

I suggest that you find a therapist who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I know that you do not trust them but it’s important that you start somewhere. In this type of therapy you do not dig up the past and you don’t have to talk endlessly. It’s a very structured type of therapy, unlike the other types. You will also not be a “diagnosis” because the therapy is based on thinking and behavior and not on  endless talking. Do not let this thing take over any more of your life. There is help for you.

Best of Luck

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Comments
  • Mia

    Thank You Dr. Schwartz,

    For reading my issues and responding so diligently as well as honestly. Your response has made me realize that I don't want this to be present in my future and that it is urgent for me to be strong and seek professional assistance. My recovery and a healthy life is valuable to me. Thank you for giving me the tools necessary to take these critical steps towards my healing. I am eager to learn new life skills and ways of confronting my fears and anxieties.

    Sincerely, Mia

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