Many of us have experienced a feeling of something stuck in our throats. Your natural instinct is to try and cough it out. If you suffer from anxiety you know the unpleasant sensation of choking or being suffocated and coughing may seem to be the logical way of getting rid of the “obstruction”.
The unpleasant truth is that when you suffer from anxiety the constant lump in your throat is not a physical thing that you can cough up. Globus pharyngeus is the medical term used to describe the subjective sensation of a foreign object in your throat or a lump in your throat. This sensation can cause you to suspect the worse. What if you have throat cancer? This added stress can worsen your anxiety and consequently it can worsen the symptom of globus pharyngeus.
It is important that you have this symptom checked out, as many other conditions such as asthma can also present with this symptom.
When you are anxious the muscles in your body become more tense than usual. The muscles in your neck and shoulders can be more tense, but so too can your esophagus, which is nothing else than a hollow muscle tube. If your esophagus muscles contract unnecessarily due to anxiety you may experience the sensation of a lump in your throat which you would want to relieve through couching.
Your esophagus contracts in a rhythmic manner to help food reach your stomach, but when you are tense this rhythm may be disturbed. Ultimately it may lead to food remaining in your esophagus instead of being transported to your stomach. If you cough up food this is probably the cause.
GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is yet another conditions closely associated with anxiety. It results in acid reflux which can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Chronic cough is a common symptom of GERD as a result of this type of damage to the esophagus. It is not yet known for sure which condition causes which. Does anxiety cause GERD or does GERD cause anxiety?
The only way to be rid of your chronic cough is to treat the cause, which is of course anxiety. It doesn’t matter in which way anxiety can make you cough, what does matter is that you should know that anxiety is a treatable and curable condition. There are many people just like you who have suffered, challenged and beaten anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a very effective treatment for anxiety. If you further combine it with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation exercises you may even find relief from your coughing while you are in the process of overcoming your anxiety.
A few other helpful hints to temporarily relieve your coughing are the following:
- If GERD is causing your cough try eating smaller more frequent meals and waiting at least three hours after dinner before going to bed.
- If your cough is worse at night try lifting the top end of your bed approximately 10 to 15 centimeters.
- Quit smoking. Smoking does not only irritate your lungs but can also irritate an already injured esophagus.
- Nasal allergies can worsen the sensation of globus pharyngeus so try to avoid allergens such as perfume or flower pollen.
- Some studies have shown that passionflower may increase the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain which helps you to relax. You can try it as a tea, but it should not be given to children and since it can interact with other medication like blood thinning medication you should use it only after consulting with your doctor.
Anxiety does not have to follow you around for the rest of your life. Help is available so that you too can be one of those who have overcome anxiety.
“Passionflower.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 2011. Umm.edu. (November 22, 2012) http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/passionflower-000267.htm
Knott, Laurence; Wright, Michelle; Cox, John. “Globus Sensation.” Patient.co.uk. 2012. Patient.co.uk. (November 22, 2012) http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/globus-sensation
Ehrlich, Steven D. “Gastroesophageal reflux disease.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 2011. Umm.edu. (November 22, 2012) http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/gastroesophageal-reflux-000068.htm
“Globus: a feeling of lump in the throat.” Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. 2010. Royalberkshire.nhs.uk. (November 22, 2012) http://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/pdf/Globus_dec10.pdf
“Chronic cough – Lifestyle and home remedies.” Mayo Clinic. 2011. Mayoclinic.com. (November 22, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-cough/DS00957/DSECTION=lifestyle-and-home-remedies