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.