Fear of Swallowing

When a personal spends time thinking about the act of swallowing it can become a difficult proposition. For Aaron Buckingham a negative experience with the spice ‘curry’ instilled a profound fear of swallowing. This fear is known as Phagophobia. This term can also be used to express a fear of being swallowed.

The throat uses muscles to constrict in forcing food and liquid into the stomach. The fear expressed in Phagophobia often revolves around the belief that the food being eaten will become lodged in the throat and cause choking, oxygen deprivation and potential death.

What Causes Phagophobia?

This fear may be the result of a personal experience where something being consumed caused choking to occur. The fear can also be developed by watching someone else who experienced something similar.

It is possible to have this fear introduced by someone with whom the phobic personality is familiar.  This can happen by simply suggesting something like, “You don’t want to choke, be sure to chew everything very carefully.”

While this is true it only presents the worst case scenario and can leave a child in fear of death by careless eating.  Like the story linked above the individuals who fear swallowing can find the entire process extremely debilitating, frustrating and a potential threat to their personal health and relationships.

The secondary use of the term Phagophobia is the fear of being swallowed. This can be introduced through movies featuring alien or plant creatures that consume humans. While this idea is not entirely logical it does key in on an emotional response that leaves the phobic personality wary.

Symptoms of Phagophobia

People who have this fear may counter the concern of others by consuming protein shakes and other liquid forms of nutrition. Usually smooth textures that are nearly as easy to swallow as water are acceptable, but these individuals will express strong resistance to eating any solid foods.

Other symptoms include…

  • Anxiety
  • Dream
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • A love of food without a willingness to eat
  • Concern for others who do eat
  • Control loss
  • An urge to escape

This fear will leave others concerned and place you in a position of defending yourself and excusing your behavior. The good news is there is help.

How to Overcome Phagophobia

Therapists may call the process of recovery ‘brain training’. This process encourages the phobic personality to think about their fear from a different part of their brain. Fear uses a very small portion of the brain as a first responder. In most cases this is helpful because it urges action in the face of danger. However when it comes to fear it allows the development of multiple stresses and hormones that are neither healthy nor helpful.

By moving your through patterns to the logic portion of your brain your fear must first pass a test of what is rational before it can access the emotional part of the brain.

This allowed Buckingham to begin to eat again – and it can do the same for you.

The fear of swallowing is also referred to as:

  • Swallowing fear
  • Fear of being swallowed
  • Phagophobia
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