What Causes the Lump In Your Throat?

Having a lump in your throat or the sensation that it’s hard to swallow is a very common sensation among anxiety sufferers.

This lump causes us to think that we are headed for a medical disaster and may even cause us to swallow in quick succession so that we can make sure that we can still swallow – just in case.

This creates fear in us because the assumption is that sooner or later you won’t be able to breathe. We start jumping to conclusions about what could be causing it and go into extended versions of the what if game.

But let me assure you that when you get this lump in your throat you’re not dying. Like most of the other physical symptoms caused by anxiety having a lump in your throat is just another physiological fear response. So what’s going on in there and what is causing you all this worry?

Without getting into medical school style detail the cause of your lump is rooted in the bodies peripheral nervous system. This system is broken into two parts – the voluntary and the autonomic (automatic). The voluntary set of nerves allows us to do things with our bodies, like walking.

The other set of nerves, the autonomic nerves, control the functions of your body that you can’t control – like the beating of your heart, digesting food, etc. So now that we have identified the part of the nervous system causing all the trouble, let’s look at how it can effect the throat.

When we get nervous we enter the fight or flight mode. This in turn creates havoc in the body. During the early days of the human experience this was used to get our bodies prepared to take survival measures – like running from bears and the like.

The “havoc” comes in the form of increased blood flow, faster heart rate, faster breathing, and so on. The faster rate of respiration is what effects the muscle that controls the opening of the throat called the glottis (middle of the larynx). The glottis expands to allow more air in during the preparation for fight or flight.

The expansion and retraction of the glottis is the “lump” you feel in the throat. This of course is a watered down explanation but the basic mechanics of this lump production I hope is clear.

And although  this information is not terribly entertaining it is important to note that your anxiety symptoms are a normal reaction to fear and the subsequent fight or flight response that is initiated by all the nervous tension you endure.

So, in summary, you are not crazy. In fact it is your bodies natural reaction to anxiety and not some other thing that is creating lumps in your throat. Despite the fact that these lumps can feel large and like there is a foreign object that has been jammed down our throats – it is harmless.

Do all you can to reduce the stress in your life and you will, overtime, reduce your anxiety and the number of lumps in your throat. Moreover the lump in your throat is not a choking hazard, anxiety just makes you think it is.

Brief recap of what causes lump in the throat.

Anxiety + fight of flight response + effects on the throat muscle (glottis) = lump in the throat.

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Comments

  1. heather says

    Thanks so much for your article, it was probably the clearest written explanation for this I have ever heard and you have definetly helped to calm my nerves about the “lump” in my thoat. Thanks SO much again.

  2. Lauri says

    it’s so awesome to see that i am not the only one in this vast universe that creates her own lumps of fear. my mother always told me it was caused by anxiety, and so, in return, i told my kids the same story. I didn’t really think she was right. hmm. thanks for the article!

  3. Yvonne says

    i’ve had this feeling in my throat for maybe 3 months already. in the morning when i wake up is not there but as the day goes by it gets more intense. is like the more i think about it the more i notice it. i wish i could control it and make it dissapear, it is very annoying and exhausting.

  4. says

    thanks for the comment i have had the lump for about 2 months and its really keeping me from eating cause i feel like im choking to death

  5. Sue M says

    I get the same thing and it is annoying for sure. I did a bit of reading on it and found some neck relaxation exercises, like leaning my head back gently to look at the ceiling while opening and closing my mouth, and also massaging the sides of my neck while tilting it side to side.
    It gets worse for me when I work on the computer too long; I guess I hold my head funny or something.

  6. sue s says

    im so glad i read this , ive had the feeling of having a lump in my throat since i found out i have chronic kidney desise, the stress has been unbelievable, ive tried alsorts of things to make it go away , my gp said it was nothing to worry about and i didnt believe her, reading this article has given me one less symptom to worry about .

  7. Natashia Nzama says

    I jst wanna thank you so much for this article i feel so realived that im not the only one with this problem. At first i thot myb i had too much worms in my intestine and myb they were crawling up to my throut and took Vermox for it bt it didnt help. At night wen im sleeping it feels like im going to die. the lump feels like its on the right handside of my neck and when i drink liquids it feels like its pushing the lump down slowly and it just comes up again.I aslo feel pain on the right side of my chest. Please let me know what i can take to make the lump go away, iv had it for more than 3 months now

  8. Melissa Cullison says

    I want to thank god, that im not the only one with this problem. I have not been able to eat solid foods for 5 months. The feeling is not as bad when I first wake up but the later it gets the worst it gets.

  9. Usha says

    Thanks a lot for the information. I am feeling it since 4 months. This article is helped me to calm my anxiety.

  10. Adrian says

    thank you so much for this article! it’s really hard for me to go through my day having that feeling of a lump in my throat. this really made me cal down about it. remember guys! don’t freak out about it because it does make it worse. just remember to breathe! I feel all of your pain.

  11. Michelle says

    Wow. My mom shared this article with me and I couldn’t believe it when I read all the comments… I’ve had this for about 3 months now and it NEVER GOES AWAY. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but it’s always there. I have been to an ENT specialist and a gastroenterologist, I’ve done a barium swallow study, I’ve had bloodwork done for possible infections, thyroid levels, etc., I had an endoscopy done, and I’m scheduled for a thyroid ultrasound and an MRI… and while the doctors can see my swollen throat when they look at it with a pharyngoscope, they can find nothing wrong with me that would be causing it.

    About a week ago the doc put me on an anti-depressant called Elavil to see if it would help. So far I haven’t noticed any marked improvement, but it has only been a few days. I’m hoping and praying it helps!

    Thank you to whoever wrote this article! Here I’ve been sitting here wondering if I have throat cancer, when maybe it’s just stress/anxiety? I feel so much better knowing I am not the only one out there going through this.

  12. Ajay says

    The best way to get over the feeling is, sit in a chair with your head resting on the chair & see up. Just relax all your face muscles, deeply breath in & out slowly & think of the best times you spent in your life which are not connected with negetive things. Like you enjoyed a picnic with your friend & now you have lost him/her.
    Think about the moments you enjoyed at that time & still enjoy remembering them.
    See the effect of the technique, I am sure you will enjoy it.

  13. Dale says

    Hi
    Just want to say a big thank you for this article – I have had this feeling for about 3 weeks now, not as long as other sufferers and thought of all possible solutions and worried me silly, but found when i am not thinking about it and talking to friends or watching TV or sleeping its hardly there or just not noticable, just when I think about it, it causes me to focus on it more and it gets worse, this makes such perfect sense – I do have a lot of other worrying stuff on my mind right now as well – so its a combination of things, at least this is one less worry to worry about. Thank you

  14. lia says

    hi, wish my doctor told me this information ,i have had this for 3 years and its getting me down ,it says its through stress,if so i am never going to get rid the last 3 years has been the worst i worry more since i have had this lump in my throat,wish it will just dissapear

  15. Rahmah says

    Thanks to this article i learn’t how to relax my mind. Bu does it go away with time

  16. Ashten says

    Thank you so much for this in depth article. I’ve had bouts with the lump in the throat feeling and thought I was getting sick. Now looking back it was during very stressful periods that it would happen, death in the family, school project deadlines, etc. The longest it has lasted has only been a week but now I’ll know what it is and to try to destress to get it to go away. Thanks again.

  17. Cristina says

    I have had this feeling for the past couple of days and it is freaking me out. The feeling of the lump is only on the left side of my neck. My ear on the left side is also hurting too. I am afraid to eat and I am constantly drinking water hoping that it helps but it doesn’t. I don’t want to go to the doctor if it’s nothing but I am really scared it is something serious. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  18. says

    Hi Cristina,

    If you don’t go to the doctor it’s possible that you’ll stay afraid for a long time. Not a nice idea, right?

    I recommend you see a doctor to rule out the things that you’re afraid of. Once you’re medically cleared, then you’ll have a much better idea about how you can correct his issue.

  19. says

    i was choking on chicken yesterday and i cant swollow any ting what can i do and i have a headache what can i do???????????

  20. Dez says

    I have a very big ball in my throat . Ith sucks like heck. I can barely swallow I have puus all over my ball .It hurts,really bad.

  21. morg says

    thank you so much, i am only 18 and I have always had problems with anxiety but never thought much of them. I have been under loads of stress lately and this lump in throat feeling had never happened to me before, and i automatically believed i either had cancer or some other terrible illness. my doctor even told me i was fine but i did’t believe her and then it only became worse. this was very clearly written and has relieved me quite a bit. thank you.

  22. ManSab1008 says

    I appreciate reading this. On 11/20/2012 I couldn’t swallow but then came to find that it was a throat polyp. It was covering my windpipe flap. It was removed but now that is all I can think about. I feel like there is a lump in my throat. I am going to an ENT on Friday for a follow-up so I hope there is NOTHING there. I will update everyone. If there is NOTHING then my anxiety is too high.

  23. Mujammel Chowdhury says

    Thanks for this ,its really good to know how this lump in throut symptom comes about .
    Its so frustrating when i get this because i makes my voice sound quite , more quite depending on how big the lump in throut is .

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