Anxiety can cause physical symptoms in just about any area of your body. But the throat seems to be a hotspot.
There are multiple throat problems that can occur as a direct result of anxiety. In this post, I’m going to focus on the 3 most common ones.
During my time with anxiety I experienced each of these 3 throat problems, and that means I had the chance to learn a lot about them.
In this post I’ll share everything I learned. I’m hoping this information will help you with your own anxiety-related throat problems.
Since there are multiple throat problems that your anxiety can cause it’ll be best if we take a look at them one at a time.
This is possibly the most unpleasant throat problem that your anxiety can cause, and when it lasts for extended periods of time it can be quite scary.
I had bouts of a burning throat that lasted weeks so it’s a symptom I know well.
Why Does Anxiety Cause a Burning Throat?
There are 2 ways that anxiety can cause a burning throat:
- acid reflux – you produce more stomach acid than normal when you’re anxious. You’ll feel this as a knot in your stomach. If the excess acid refluxes into your throat it will irritate the delicate tissues there and cause burning
- hypersensitivity – when you’re anxious for long periods of time a large amount of adrenaline builds up in your system, causing hypersensitivity throughout your body. In the throat, this often presents itself as burning.
How to Stop a Burning Throat Caused by Anxiety
To stop a burning throat you can either treat the symptoms as they appear for short-term relief, or you can treat the root-cause to stop the problem from ever happening.
- treat the symptoms – when your throat starts to burn, try the following tips: sip cool water, avoid hot drinks, chew gum to increase saliva, gargle salt water, put your head over a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam
- treat acid reflux – if acid reflux is your root cause you’ll need to make some changes to your diet. Check out this acid reflux diet guide over at WebMD for specifics
- treat hypersensitivity – constant anxiety with no moments of relief is what leads to hypersensitivity. The solution is to find ways to give yourself moments of peace. I call these “anxiety timeouts.” Listen to relaxation sounds, go for a short walk, take a hot shower or bath, find comfort in things you love like old movies, books, and music. Do whatever relaxes you often enough and your hypersensitivity will fade
Lump in the Throat / Tight Throat
The sensation of a lump in the throat is very similar to the sensation of a tight throat. They have similar causes too.
So I’ve grouped them together.
Why Does Anxiety Cause a Lump in the Throat and a Tight Throat?
There are 3 ways that anxiety can cause a lump in the throat sensation or a tight throat:
- acid reflux – with anxiety often causing excess stomach acid there’s more chance that some of it will reflux into your throat. If this occurs for long enough the acid will irritate your throat, causing a lump in the throat sensation or a tight throat
- post nasal drip – if your anxiety causes hypersensitivity you’re more likely to become allergic to something. An allergy will produce excess mucus in the back of your nose and throat. When the excess mucus trickles down your throat (post nasal drip) it can make you feel like you have something stuck in your throat or that you have a tight throat
- muscle tension – there’s a ring of muscle in your throat that opens and closes to let food down into your stomach. When you’re anxious this muscle can become tense, causing the feeling that something is stuck in your throat or that your throat is tight
How to Stop a Lump in the Throat and a Tight Throat Caused by Anxiety
There’s a different approach to stopping these sensations in your throat depending on which of the causes is responsible.
- treat acid reflux – if acid reflux is to blame then you need to make a few dietary changes. Here’s a good acid reflux diet guide at WebMD to help you
- treat post nasal drip – if post nasal drip is to blame there are a few things you can try. Use a neti pot morning and night to flush out your sinuses. Place a humidifier where you sleep to combat dry air. Take an over-the-counter antihistamine to treat any undiagnosed allergies. Consider cutting dairy and wheat from your diet one at a time to see if either of them is causing your problems
- treat muscle tension – if muscle tension is to blame you need to find ways to relax the muscles in your throat region. Check out this eHow guide for help in doing that
A dry throat is a common problem when you have anxiety. It’s not unbearable like some anxiety symptoms can be, but it’s annoying and something you’d be much happier without.
Why Does Anxiety Cause a Dry Throat?
There are 4 main ways that anxiety causes a dry throat:
- acid reflux – stress and anxiety produce excess acid in your stomach, and if the acid backs up into your throat it irritates the delicate tissues there, making your throat feel dry
- adrenaline – when you’re anxious your body releases adrenaline into your system. One of adrenaline’s effects is to shut off your salivary glands, which quickly leads to a dry throat
- mouth breathing – when you’re relaxed you breathe through your nose, as you should. But when you’re anxious you tend to breathe through your mouth. This exposes your mouth to more air than is normal and this dries out your throat
How to Stop a Dry Throat Caused by Anxiety
First try to determine which of the potential causes is responsible for your dry throat. Then treat that cause appropriately.
- treat acid reflux – the best way to treat acid reflux is by making some simple changes to your diet. Check out how to do that over at WebMD
- treat excess adrenaline – excess adrenaline is hard to get rid of until your underlying anxiety is dealt with. But for short-term relief use “anxiety timeouts” to give yourself a break from your stress and anxiety. Good ways to do this: going for a walk, hot baths, hot showers, listening to music, listening to relaxation sounds, getting lost in old books and movies you love
- treat mouth breathing – the only way to combat mouth breathing is to force yourself to breathe correctly for short periods throughout the day. Do this enough times and you’ll naturally start to breathe correctly. Every couple of hours sit with your hands on your stomach. Take a controlled breath in through your nose for a count of 4 while gently pushing your stomach out against your hands. Then exhale through your nose for a count of 4 while gently pulling your stomach back in away from your hands. Do this for 2 minutes several times a day
Your throat is a sensitive area and ongoing anxiety can lead to several problems developing there.
Problems with your throat are bad for 2 reasons: one, because the symptoms themselves are annoying and distracting, and two, because the symptoms can lead to more anxiety since you don’t know what’s causing them.
I hope this post has helped reassure you that anxiety really can lead to all these unpleasant symptoms in your throat. Feeling this kind of reassurance is one of the keys to stopping a symptom since you can then stop focusing on it so much.
And I hope that the tips I’ve shared with you help you to stop or reduce the symptoms themselves in the short-term so that you don’t have to suffer the distraction or the discomfort they can cause.