Understanding Phagophobia: Can Someone Be Afraid Of Swallowing?

Last Update on April 19, 2022 : Published on April 19, 2022

You must have heard of a lot of weird and rare kinds of phobias but did you know some people have a weird fear of swallowing? The fear of swallowing is often confused by another rare phobia known as pseudodysphagia (the fear of choking).

The technical term for the fear of swallowing is phagophobia. Phagophobia is a very uncommon disorder but however few cases that were reported proved to be life-threatening. That’s because the one suffering from the fear of swallowing refuses to eat, drink and take pills.

Phagophobia is also mistaken as dysphagia or odynophagia. Dysphagia and odynophagia are psychological disorders which involve resistance towards swallowing anything which is caused by pain in the throat or physical difficulty in swallowing.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of phagophobia is even more important because it can be confused with so many other mental and physical health conditions. Let’s look at the fear of swallowing in detail for better understanding…

What Is Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing)?


Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) is a mental health condition which is characterized by an intense and irrational fear of swallowing any kind of liquid, solid or pills. An individual living with Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) is afraid of the very act of swallowing something.

There is a lot of fear, resistance and avoidance related to anything that has to be swallowed. There are no known causes of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) but there are some risk factors that can support the development of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing).

Let’s have a look at them…

What Causes Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing)?

The cause of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) is, like most phobias, not yet discovered. But like i said before, there are some risk factors involved that can aid in the development of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) such as;

  • Fear of food: if you have a history of being afraid of some kind of food substance you are most likely to develop Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing). In fact some people have a fear of contaminated food which can also lead to fear of swallowing.
  • Anxiety, stress and tension: the physical reaction of your body to anxiety, stress and tension can cause our muscles in the throat to create a lump like stiffness. This can cause difficulty in swallowing and the pain can create an aversion to swallowing.
  • Traumatic experience with eating or swallowing: in case of a throat surgery or a painful procedure involving the throat can also make you develop a fear of swallowing. A choking experience can also aid the same.
  • Now that you know what Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) is and what led to the development of the weird phobia of swallowing, shall we look at the signs and symptoms of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing)?

Symptoms Of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing)


An interesting fact about Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) is that there can be a lot of signs and symptoms of the fear of swallowing. The symptoms can also sometimes be as rare as the condition itself.

Symptoms can be personalized and unique to oneself and it’ll be very difficult to describe all of them together. Therefore, we will discuss the most common signs and symptoms of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) which can be generalized.

Signs of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) that you need to watch out for are;

  • Anxiety prior to meals (anticipatory)
  • Panic attacks before meal or on the thoughts of a dine-in or lunch-out
  • Consuming tiny amounts of food alongside a lot of liquid so that swallowing is aided
  • Avoid eating/drinking in presence of others
  • Extreme anxiety even on the thought of swallowing
  • Prefer liquid diet over a proper meal
  • Rapid, unintended weight loss
  • Increased heartbeat and disturved breathing
  • Sweating upon the sight of food

Do you or someone you know identifies with these signs? If yes, consult a mental health professional as soon as possible. You can Book An Appointment now with no details in response.

Treatment For Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing)

Fortunately, inspite of Phagophobia (Fear Of Swallowing) being a rare condition, there are a lot of treatment options available for you. Let’s have a look at them;

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): a cognitive behavioral therapist will help you in identifying the core beliefs that foster your fear of swallowing and help you replace your thought patterns.
  2. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): with EMDR your sensitivity towards swallowing anything is reduced with the help of eye movement, tapping, etc.
  3. Hypnotherapy: a hypnotherapist will help you come to a deeply calm state of mind where you can explore the root cause of your fear and start working from there.
  4. Exposure therapy: this therapy works for most of the phobia related anxiety. Your therapist will gradually introduce you to different things to swallow and will continue further as and when you become comfortable with swallowing one thing after another.
  5. Medication: medications like anti-anxiety and antidepressants can be prescribed to you during the course of your therapy so that it helps in the smooth functioning of your treatment.

That’s All Folks

Phagophobia, the fear of swallowing, is a very rare condition but knowing such a rare condition is very important because you never know when it will come close to you. The symptoms and treatment for conditions like the fear of swallowing can help in early diagnosis of such rare conditions.

I hope you found the blog about Phagophobia (fear of swallowing) interesting and informative. Do share this blog with your friends and family.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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