Sorry if this sounds silly/stupid, but it's been a huge problem in my life for the past few years now. It started around 2013 and has been on and off since then, but it's affected my social life big time, stopped me from eating out/getting takeaways with friends, and even eating meals with the family, and I'd like to finally sort it out. Basically my problem is when I eat, I find it hard to swallow it and just end up chewing the food for long periods of time and not getting very far. Because of this, it's made me very nervous when eating in public recently, because I'm afraid of what others will think, or that I won't even be able to eat a full meal, since it often leaves me just chewing the food, and so I've been on meals out where I've barely eaten anything. I'm better eating on my own in a private room, but it still takes me a while sometimes. It's gotten me down because I've had to make excuses about not wanting to go out and eat with friends (I've got too much work, not hungry, this that and the other). It's starting to take over my life and I don't want it to get to how it used to be. It feels like every time I eat I'm manually doing it and thinking about rather than instinctively; It's become a habit, and I know it's in my head, but I just can't kick it
It started a few years back; I went to a pub with my dad, and we were having a nice birthday meal out to celebrate it when he started choking on a piece of steak. He was fine in the end, but at the time my grandad had to help him (I think he did the Heimlich manoever but I didn't see because they went outside), and that evening he still felt there was something 'stuck' in his throat so he went to hospital on his own accord and they just gave him something to take to 'ease it', and since then he's been fine, and it hasn't affected him at all. It shook me a bit, not too much, but subconsioucly it's affected me hugely. This is around the time my problem started. Since then, I becamemore aware of how I was eating, chewing my food more and startingg to think about it more, since I was scared of choking myself. It got pretty bad, my all time low was where I couldn't eat any solids and had to eat mushed up baby rusk with milk, and have a blended smoothie. I felt pretty ill because I wasn't eating properly and wasn't getting the right minerals or nutrients at all. Now, I'm better than that and can eat solids, but it takes me a while, and I'm scared of this happening again. Often my food goes cold before I finish it. It feels now that it's become a phobia of a phobia though. I went on a day out recently and barely ate in public, not because I wasn't hungry, but because I was scared of eating by myself, and that I wouldn't be able to eat, so I went a whole day of eating barely anything (I had to get a 2 hour train ride there and back and didn't eat much on the train either).
I'm going back to uni soon, and I want to fix this before I go back. I have about 2 months (end of September) before I return. I feel like a broken person right now, since it's always getting me down and affecting me socially (I feel not eating properly also makes me moodier too), and I want to experience being full again, something I haven't felt in ages, since I usually stop eating because I'm just chewing and not swallowing anymore, not because I'm full. It's also made me very skinny because I'm simply not eating a lot, and so slightly affecting my self confidence about how I look. If I can fix this, then I feel like I'll be so much happier, this is the only problem right now that I face. I just want to go back to how I used to be before all this and feel normal again, enjoy eating out, and not worry or even think about it.
I've decided that I probably need councelling again, something which I've been reluctant to do since it's sort of like 'admitting defeat', since I used to have a counsellor for it a few years ago, but got discharged when I felt I was a bit better (I wasn't back to how I was when normal though). It also brings up the problem again, something which I'm trying desperately hard to forget about, but finding it near impossible since I think about it every time I eat. Is it worth getting another appointment? I felt it was nice to talk about it and get it off my chest, but it didn't help all that much, since I was just going over the problem and how it was related to anxiety, and how I could relax using breathing exercises and stuff, none of which seem to help really
Also, would hypnotherapy be a good thing to try? Is it available on the NHS and can it be successful, or even work in my case? I sometimes get stupid thoughts, like how I'd like to be in a coma so I could wake up and forget about my issue, and I wouldn't remember it ever happened
Sorry there's a lot to read, but I think this just about barely touches the surface of a problem which has been affecting my life for around 3/4 years now, and I've probably missed out a lot of stuff, but thanks for taking the time to read it all. I think it's probably an uncommon/weird problem, and a lot of people may not know what to say, but any advice would be much appreciated
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Eating Problem/Swallowing watch
- Thread Starter
- 25-07-2016 01:01
- 25-07-2016 02:07
Therapy might be good, even if you did not feel like it helped, you did say that you felt it was nice to talk about it. So it may help you to try again. There's no harm in going.
The thing with problems like this is that there is usually no quick fix, it's a process that you have to get through. There is a reason why a lot of people who went through therapy still go every few months even though they seem fine. It's something that you need to stick through even when you feel you're doing better or are fine because it's very easy to go back.
That was a mistake you made by just stopping the therapy because you were a little bit better. You can't just forget what happened, you need to learn to deal with it. It is part of the reason why you would keep talking about it in therapy. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable you feel about it, which is why you start feeling better about it.
Like I said, it's always a lengthy process of getting through traumatic events that affect you so much.
- 25-07-2016 02:36
That's amazing, I've never heard of anyone with the same issue I have. The only difference I can see between you and me is that I can't think of when it started, and I haven't seen or been involved in any stressful situation where someone has trouble eating. But I definitely know how annoying it is to just get fed up with eating because it takes ages, or feeling bad if anyone is waiting for you to finish eating.
I don't know how to cure it, but something I've found to make eating in public less awkward, or even eating a meal by yourself less boring is eat little and often. Like, rather than going a whole day without food, try and pack some cereal bars or whatever so you can casually eat them while you're out. Also, if you're snacking rather than eating a full meal with people, they're less likely to be able to notice how long it takes you.
Another thing, which may sound counterintuitive, but if you don't want people to think you eat really slowly, if you talk a lot while you eat, they might just think it's because you're distracted that you haven't finished.
Two more things that I've found can reduce some stress when eating out are only ordering a starter. They usually come before the main meal, so you have more timeto eat it, and they're smaller, so you don't have to worry about eating so much. If you have a friend who knows about your eating problem, you could also arrange to share a meal, pay half each, and then just eat what you can in the time it takes them to eat what they want. Most likely you won't be able to eat half, so your friend might be grateful you're effectively paying for some of their food.These obviously aren't great if you're hungry but if you just miss eating with friends, this is a kind of compromise.
If you ever get this sorted, I'd be interested to know what you did, because I feel like it's something I've just had to get used to. It's really interesting to hear that someone else has this same thing- I kinda thought I was the only one!
- PS Reviewer
- 25-07-2016 02:59
- 25-07-2016 15:58
Another name for it is phagophobia (fear of swallowing) but the condition centres on the fear of choking (because of what the swallowing of food might do). Consider that you have learned this and it can be un-learned (re-learned). Social anxiety plays a big part in this because you don't want to do anything that draws attention. As you have mentioned, you feel more relaxed when you are eating alone. Over time, unless it is resolved by desensitisation, you can remain pre-occupied with it and avoid more situations, possibly attaching more fears along the way.
Your "other" issues might complicate this, but hypnotherapy would usually be the treatment choice that releases your trauma and accelerates the return to relaxed, wholefood eating. It's not available on the NHS, but some hypnotherapists offer student discounts.
As a self help measure, relaxed breathing is essential for you to be mindful of muscle tension and re-learning how to relax the pharynx/trachea when eating. When the diaphragm is tense (with pretty much all anxiety), other muscles follow. In social situations, you are trying to manage this physiology and are focusing on your peers' potential reactions, adding to your stress.
- Thread Starter
- 05-09-2016 19:25
Bit of a late reply, but I went to the doctors on Friday again and he run me through a few things and asked a few questions to reassure me it wasn't physical, but he said it was fixable and something you can overcome. I also suggested that I had looked into hypnotherapy a bit and although it's not offered on the NHS, he said if it is with a qualified practitioner then it could also work since it helps to overcome a barrier if you have a desire to achieve a goal (but you have to want to achieve it), so that may be something I look into a bit more as well. Since I'm at university currently, he said there wasn't much point in registering for therapy because I go back in a few weeks and I'll be away from home, but he advised me to get therapy at university instead, so when I go back I'll go to the health service there and see what they can do
Thanks for the replies, and I'm glad at least somebody else could relate!
- 05-09-2016 19:28
Do you know what might have caused this problem to begin with ie the trigger?