Can Anxiety Cause Gagging? How To Stop Gag Symptoms

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Can Anxiety Cause Gagging?

Do you suffer with an anxiety-related problem? Are you a bit baffled because you seem to be gagging rather a lot? Can anxiety cause gagging? You may be surprised to know that the two could be linked. Gagging (otherwise known as the pharyngeal reflex, is not a sign of anxiety that you’ll see listed on many blog posts that speak about common symptoms of anxiety. However, it is, actually one of the physical symptoms of anxiety. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most common causes and hopefully, provide you with a long-term solution.

I recently experienced gaging for myself so I sympathise. It’s not very nice. I had to go for an MRI scan and even though, I am normally pretty calm in situations like that, on this particular day, I experienced a bit of postnasal drip. When you are lying on your back in an MRI scanner, this makes the sensation worse. The nurse asked me afterwards if I was stressed by the MRI. I made a joke and said that I couldn’t give a toss about the MRI and that what I was afraid of was drowning on my own saliva.

I have had many clients over the years who have suffered a gagging problem while having dental treatments. The combination of people’s natural fear about dental procedures, local anesthesia elevated stress levels and inability to swallow while the dentists hands are in your mouth can lead to quite a number of anxiety symptoms, including gagging.whe

Can Anxiety Cause Choking On Food?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The reason has all got to do with focus. There is a psychogical law that states that what we focus on becomes bigger. You see, when you swallow under normal conditions, you are quite probably thinking about something else. Swallowing is one of those automatic functions of the body that you simply don’t have to think about.

A problem occurs when we start focussing on swallowing. The moment we start focussing on it, our conscious mind starts thinking “that doesn’t seem right”. The reason it thinks this is simply because we normally never focus on it so it’s bound to feel “different”. This judgement about it “Not seeming right” causes us to focus even more on it, and as a result, having even more difficulty swallowing as the muscles in the back of the throat tighten.

Why Am I Gagging For No Reason All Of A Sudden?

There can be a number of reasons, some of which I have listed below. Importantly though, if you are experiencing gagging in your daily life for no apparent reason, it would be important to get proper medical advice rather than self-diagnosing. Symptoms like these can be shared between anxiety disorders and medical conditions so it would be important to have yourself assessed by a healthcare professional to find the underlying cause of the problem.

Your doctor should be able to rule out potential causes of a physical nature pretty quickly and discuss some of the psychological factors that may be causing the problem. Some of the potential physical causes of gagging could be:

  • Postnasal Drip: constant dripping from your sinus cavities perhaps because of your immune system having an allergic response, or perhaps, from a virus
  • Acid Reflux: also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease 
  • Vagus Nerve: when your nervous system recognises feelings of anxiety, it can make your vagus nerve more alert which in turn can cause gagging or difficulty swallowing.
  • Very Sensitive Gag Reflex: some people will gag much easier than others simply because they have a more sensitive gag reflex. This causes problems in particular for dental patients which can cause some to avoid proper, regular dental care.
  • Physical Conditions: certain physical conditions can trigger a gag reflex
  • Mental Health Conditions; certain mental health conditions can trigger a gag reflex

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Can Anxiety Cause Gagging In The Morning?

Anxiety is one of the possible causes of gagging in the morning. However, it could also be that you are pregnant. If you are a guy, you can probably rule that one out! Other possible reasons can be low blood sugar, migraine, recovering after a heavy night of drinking, etc. None of these are too serious, however, constant gagging can also be a sign that there might be an underlying condition such as multiple sclerosis. 

Obviously, I don’t want you to suddenly sound the alarm bells and start thinking that you definitely have that. That is a rare possibility but it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider or doctor who, in certain cases, may refer you to a gi doctor ( a doctor specialising in gastro intestinal issues) for a second opinion

What Is A Hypersensitive Gag Reflex?

If you touch your soft palate with your finger and you instantly want to gag or throw up, you may have a hypersensitive gag reflex. The gag reflex is meant to help you by stopping you from swallowing something undesireable, or to prevent you from choking. Essentially, you feel a little extra muscle tension in that area and the soft palate raises so as to stop you from swallowing. So that means your gag reflex is triggering off at a time where there is no need to.

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What Is Retching Anxiety?

Retching is when you go through the motions of vomiting but nothing comes out. It is also called dry heaving. When you are having an anxiety-related dry heave, the most common cause is chronic stress. There are a number of other reasons that can cause retching but when it is specifically retching due to anxiety, we are mainly looking for psychological symptoms and causes. Some of the mental health conditions that can cause this are:

  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Claustrohobia
  • Specific fears or phobias
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder

If you have identified psychological triggers for your aggaging or retching, there are effective ways of overcoming these problems. For instance, you could use cognitive behavioral therapy to address some of those mental health issues and retrain your anxiety response.

How Do I Know If My Nausea Is From Anxiety?

​You can be pretty certain that your anxiety is causing your nausea if the nausea goes away the moment that stressful situations change or go away. It can be more difficult to definitively say that your anxiety is causing your nausea when the anxiety doesn’t go away, for instance, in the case of generalised anxiety disorder. I would always tell my clients not to self-diagnose. A chat with a qualified doctor is the most sensible thing to do because even though the doctor may just confirm what you were thinking, at least you’ll have confirmation of what it is.

Typically, if your anxiety is causing nausea, you should be experiencing a number of the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • A feeling of edginess or nervousness
  • Feeling a sense of danger
  • Not being able to block out worry thoughts
  • Tightness and tension in your muscles
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • and of course, nausea
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How Do I Relax My Throat Muscles With Anxiety?

There a number of techniques that can help you relax those throat muscles. I’ve listed the two main ones below:

  1. Box Breathing: this is a quite simple brathing exercise that can get your breathing under control pretty quickly. You simply breathe in as you count slowly from one up to four. Then you hold your breath while you once again count slowly from one up to four. Then you exhale slowly, once again counting slowly from one up to four. Finally, you maintain your empty lungs for the count of four and then begin again. Keep doing this until your breathing becomes more controlled. It should take just a couple of repetitions to feel much better.
  2. Stretch Neck Muscles: Roll your head to the left as if you are trying to touch your shoulder with your left ear. Go as far as is comfortable until you can feel a stretch in those neck muscles. Hold in this position for the count of five. then roll your head all the way to the right and hold for the count of five. Then roll your head backwards for the count of five and then forward until your chin almost touches your chest, once again, to the count of five.

How Do I Get Rid Of Anxiety Gagging?

The best way to stop anxiety gagging is to look at the gagging as the symptom and not the cause. Find the cause of the gagging and treat that, and in many cases, people find that the gagging settles down too. This may involve lifestyle changes, reducing the intake of harmful substances (in the case of substance-induced anxiety disorder), learning breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing or learning certain behavioral techniques that will reduce the feelings of anxiety. 

So I hope we’ve comprehensively answer the question “can anxiety cause gagging?”

One one final note, a great self-help way to overcome anxiety is by downloading my self hypnosis recording called “Overcome Anxiety“. Aletrnatively, if you suffer from a panic disorder “Overcome Panic Attacks“.

Picture of Author: Paul Hunter

Author: Paul Hunter

Although thousands of people read his blog every month, Paul's path to success was not an easy one. Click here to read his amazing story "From Unwanted Baby And Adopted To A Respected Self Help Blogger". If you want to send Paul a quick message, then visit his contact page here


Picture of Paul Hunter

Paul Hunter

Although thousands of people read his blog every month, Paul's path to success was not an easy one. Click here to read his amazing story "From Unwanted Baby And Adopted To A Respected Self Help Blogger". If you want to send Paul a quick message, then visit his contact page here

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