The fear of being choked is referred to as pnigophobia. Sometimes, this disorder is also called pnigerophobia. Some people who suffer from this fear also struggle with a generalized fear of being smothered or suffocated.
This fear may develop as a result of a choking incident or a physical fight where someone attempts to “choke out” the phobic person. Often, the person who fears being choked will experience nightmares about being suffocated. These night terrors can leave the person who fears being choked with a sense of unease that triggers irrational thought patterns during the day.
The symptoms of this phobia manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Nervousness, insomnia (due to recurrent nightmares), racing heartbeat, and mental anxiety are all common symptoms of pnigophobia.
A person who deals with these fears will often avoid wearing anything tight or constricting around their throat. Scarves and even snug turtleneck sweaters may leave them feeling “suffocated”. Some pnigophobics will go so far as to avoid necklaces or ties, preferring to keep their necks bare at all times.
Some children who have choked on certain foods will become unwilling to eat specific foods. They will often cry or fuss when they are asked to come to the dinner table, because they fear a recurrence.
In the martial arts, some forms of Judo training feature frequent attempts to “choke out” the student. This training is meant to make the student tougher and stronger. The fear of being choked is a potent one for practitioners of the martial arts. It is all too easy to be choked to the point of unconsciousness. Hypoxia occurs when no oxygen can reach the brain. Most martial arts instructors encourage a “healthy” fear of being “choked out”.
Choking in Cinema
Often, horror movies or mainstream action films and miniseries will play into the primordial fear of being choked by featuring scenes of choking. In one instance, the lines of fantasy and reality blurred, with disastrous results. During the filming of the made-for-TV thriller, Past Tense, in 2006, actress Gabrielle Carteris was part of a choking scene that went awry. After filming, she claimed that the “choking” she endured on film left her with permanent nerve damage and muscle spasms. The producers deny her allegations.
In the 1951 film , Strangers On A Train, Alfred Hitchcock staged two choking scenes. This classic example of film noir follows Hitchcock’s usual themes of love, betrayal, and the art of the double cross.
Treatment For Fear Of Choking
Getting at the root of the surprisingly common phobia can be beneficial for sufferers of pnigophobia. A qualified therapist or psychologist can help a phobic person release their thoughts and emotions through guided discussions.
Hypnotherapy is also an important, although controversial, facet of treatment for most phobias, inclusing the fear of being choked. Generally, the results for hynotherapy treatment are decidedly mixed. Some people simply seem to be more open to suggestion. However, if this phobia is causing great problems for a person, hypnotherapy should be considered. The odds of getting a positive result through hypnosis may be worth the time and expense of treatment.