How to Overcome Pseudodysphagia

Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Michael

Pseudodysphagia, the fear of swallowing. You might break into a cold sweat when the PB&J approaches your mouth, but don’t think you’re alone in this peculiar ordeal. While it’s true some folks choke on their own virtuosity during a violin solo, rest assured that help’s available, and there’s no reason to go into full panic mode.

Identifying the root cause

Pseudodysphagia is essentially stage fright for your throat. It’s the gut-clenching fear that you’re going to choke while eating. Maybe you had a scary choking incident in the past, or maybe your throat seems smaller than a VIP lounge.

What causes it? Well, you could be lugging around some old emotional baggage. Perhaps you choked on a hot dog when you were five. Also, anxiety could be the puppet master behind this fear, or you’ve got a family history of quirky fears like this.

Let’s get down to the symptoms. Your heart races like you’re on a rollercoaster, you’re sweating bullets, and your hands might even shake. Oh, and you might also feel sick. Mentally, you’re in a state of dread; you dodge eating situations where choking is even a remote possibility, and you’re pretty much always on high alert.

When it comes to treatment, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. You might find yourself in a room with dieticians, mental health experts, and maybe even a speech therapist. They’ll concoct a custom plan for you. CBT is your friend here; it’s like boot camp for your fears.

Throwing a curveball: There’s also something called Omophydroid Muscle Syndrome. It’s a rare condition that could be playing tricks on your swallowing muscles. If you think you’re part of this exclusive club, you’re going to want to consult a healthcare pro to get the 411.

If you have additional fears like being terrified of clown cars or accidentally shoplifting while sleepwalking, don’t hold back—let your healthcare team know. These seemingly unrelated fears could be more relevant to your treatment than you think.

Seeking professional help

Customized treatment for pseudodysphagia doesn’t come off a conveyor belt; it’s more like a bespoke suit. There’s a registered dietitian involved to save folks from the purgatory of endless smoothies and protein shakes.

Rick, the bartender, claims to have magic elixirs for what ails you. While intriguing, remember that Rick operates in a grey area. Is his backroom the place for medical advice? Maybe not, but he swears he has what you need. Tread lightly.

Mental health professionals are a cornerstone of effective treatment. Speech therapists, occupational therapists, and counselors stand ready to delve into anxiety issues and coping strategies. Their aim is to make swallowing less of an ordeal and more like second nature.

Don’t forget the medical doctor, a key player who ensures that no physical issues are lurking in the shadows. They bring the sort of clarity that you just can’t get from scrolling through symptom-checkers online.

Treatment options are as varied as a buffet spread. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and medication could all be on the menu. One size doesn’t fit all here.

Pre-meal relaxation can also work wonders. Deep breathing and positive visualization can set the stage for a more peaceful dining experience. No, it’s not Jedi mind tricks; it’s practical psychology.

And if you’re grappling with this condition solo, there’s help. Support groups provide a venue for sharing experiences and coping techniques. It’s mutual support, minus the awkward holiday dinners. Whether these meetings happen face-to-face or online, they offer a meaningful way to connect and help overcome the challenges of pseudodysphagia.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is like a Swiss Army knife of interventions but without the tiny, useless scissors. It’s got cognitive restructuring to reboot your mind, and in vivo exposure to make eating less like an action thriller. Dismantling irrational fears and becoming friends with food is the endgame here.

Let’s chat about relaxation methods. Forget the fancy terminology; it’s about breathing deep, chilling out, and getting friendly with your food again. Other methods include exposure therapy and good ol’ support groups. Together, these can help you find your groove in the chewing and swallowing department.

Think of your treatment team as the Avengers of healthcare. It’s got the dietitian to hold your hand through the scary world of solid foods. Therapists for the mind and speech put you at ease, making sure anxiety doesn’t crash your dinner party. And, of course, a medical doctor ensures nothing physical is messing with your grub time.

Listen, pseudodysphagia may not be the talk of the town, but it’s real, and that’s why your treatment is unique. Like a rare vinyl record, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to treatment. You need a playlist that’s all you.

Don’t DIY this one. Consult a qualified mental health pro to properly size up your pseudodysphagia. Proper guidance is a must-have, like the guacamole at a Tex-Mex restaurant. With the right team, you’ll go from fearfully eyeing that plate of nachos to diving in, no reservations.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is the gradual way of letting your fear of choking know that you’re the boss around here. Alongside a therapist, you’ll be dismantling this anxiety, bit by bit, until you can swallow a sandwich without drama.

Your medical team’s got an arsenal of approaches to help you out. There’s CBT, swallowing therapy, and supportive therapy, like a trio of superheroes, each with its own superpower to help you eat without panic.

Everyday routines also get in on the action. Progressive exposure, relaxation techniques, and mindful eating? They’re your new best friends. They’re the daily drumbeat that keeps your progress marching forward.

And speaking of marching, let’s not forget unicorns. Because why not? If you can get past a fear as gripping as pseudodysphagia, you might as well believe that anything is possible—even meeting a unicorn during lunch!

Swallowing exercises

Swallowing exercises? Yep, you heard me right. These bad boys are your go-to gym session for the throat. They’re like CrossFit for your esophagus, minus the overzealous coach and spandex.

The Effortful Swallow is your standard push-up in this regimen. Tense up all your swallow-related muscles and dry swallow. Do this ten times, rest, sip some water, and then go at it again two more times. It’s your own mini-marathon.

Then there’s the Hyoid Lift Maneuver. Sounds like a wrestling move, right? It’s designed to beef up those muscles that help you swallow. No ropes or folding chairs are involved.

Up next is the Supraglottic Swallow. It sounds like a Harry Potter spell, but it’s magical in its own way. You’ll gather saliva, take a breath like you’re going underwater, hold it, swallow, and finish it with a cough. Voila!

Shaker Exercise wraps it all up. It’s a muscle toner that gives you the oomph to swallow better. It’s the cool-down stretch of your routine, offering a nod to its namesake, the classic martini shaker.

And while you’re doing these exercises, don’t forget to sprinkle a little imagination into the mix. Maybe you’re not just swallowing; you’re savoring a gourmet experience. Hey, if you can conquer this, unicorns at a dinner party don’t seem so far-fetched, do they?

Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing is your mini-vacation from stress. Slow it down, breathe in, breathe out, and let the worries float away like last season’s fashion choices.

Now let’s talk Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Forget doing the hokey pokey; this is all about tightening and loosening muscle groups. Clench, release, and feel that tension melt faster than ice cream on a hot sidewalk.

Mindfulness meditation, folks. It’s where you sit quietly and keep tabs on your thoughts and feelings. Think of it as emotional housekeeping. Your brain deserves a clean floor, too.

Guided imagery wraps up our mental spa day. Close your eyes and picture somewhere or something calming. No, not a margarita, Karen, but maybe a beach where you can enjoy one. Breathe in, breathe out, and you’re there.

Did I mention unicorns? Because if you nail these relaxation techniques, your mind will feel as mythical and untamed as a unicorn galloping through fields of four-leaf clovers. Cheers!

Dietary Modifications

Ah, the old blender trick. When food feels like a Rubik’s Cube going down, give it a whirl in the blender. Pureeing and thickening can make swallowing as smooth as your grandma’s gravy.

Small bites, people. Unless you’re a snake unhinging your jaw, there’s no award for eating your meal in two bites. Take your time, chew, and enjoy each morsel. Suddenly, you’re not just eating; you’re performing mindful mastication.

Ever had a food arch-nemesis? Yeah, those bites that make your throat stage a mini-protest. Recognize them, avoid them, and take the drama out of dinner time. Your esophagus will thank you with standing ovations.

Social Support

Hey, the buddy system isn’t just for kindergarten or scuba diving. Dealing with a fear of choking is no joke, and having some pals who get it is golden. Whether you join a group that’s face-to-face or Facebook-to-Facebook, you’ll feel a lot less like you’re navigating this circus alone.

Think you’re the only one freaking out about that piece of broccoli? Oh, no, you’re not alone, friend! There’s a whole Reddit community ready to upvote your bravery. Yep, the r/Pseudodysphagia subreddit is a thing, and it’s more active than a caffeinated squirrel.

That online support group is more than just a bunch of text on a screen. It’s a validation buffet, and you’ve got a VIP ticket. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a standing ovation for conquering a pork chop.


Alright, you’re equipped and ready to face down that menacing meatball or intimidating ice cream cone. With a personalized treatment approach, mental health pros in your corner, and a community that’s got your back, the dining world is your oyster. Trust me, you’ll be chomping down on that next meal like you’ve just won a culinary lottery. Bottoms up!





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