For several years now, after being put in a headlock by a family member, I’ve experienced difficulty swallowing. And over the years my grandparents have taken me to every doctor available, scheduled numerous tests to try and find a diagnosis, and have tried many home remedies in hopes of fixing this.
In June, my throat worsened to the point where I could only eat limited food items. Also, I could no longer swallow my vitamins or medications, which has left me extremely sick. I’ve become terrified of eating, especially solid foods. I can’t even be near the foods that cause me so much distress or I’ll end up having a panic attack.
Well, I ended up seeing a new ENT who ordered two swallowing tests, which I went to the hospital to have done earlier today. At first, everything went smoothly and although I had trouble swallowing the chalk-like liquid, I managed. However, after they finished, they tried to make me eat something solid and I freaked out, pushed the doctor away, ran out of the hospital, then locked myself in my grandma’s car.
In order to further a possible diagnosis, I need to swallow solids so they can see what’s happening in the stomach and throat but I can’t bring myself to do it. I really want a diagnosis but I’m too terrified of eating, especially since I know I’m going to choke on it, so I’ve been avoiding it.
What should I do about this fear of mine? Am I overreacting, should I talk to a therapist about this, or what? I’m so desperate and would appreciate any advice.
I’m Terrified of Food
I’m Terrified of Food
It’s important to rule out medical causes to explain your swallowing problem. Once a medical explanation has been ruled out, you can then consider psychological treatment. It is possible that you have developed a phobia of eating. Phobias are highly treatable with both cognitive behavioral therapy and behavioral therapy.
The inability to swallow is a specific type of eating phobia. At the heart of the phobia is the fear of choking. Phobias are maintained by avoidance. Each time you avoid what you fear, your phobia is reinforced and strengthened.
Behavioral treatments include a gradual exposure to your fear through a desensitization program. These programs are devised by therapists who know precisely how to treat phobias. You can learn more about exposure therapy and systematic desensitization online or through a therapist.
Ask your parents to assist you in finding a behavioral or cognitive behavioral therapist who specializes in treating food phobias or phobias associated with the inability to swallow. Your parents might try searching for specialists on the Internet or by calling the 800 number on the back of your insurance card. They can also ask your doctors if they know of any phobia specialists. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle