Phobia About Choking On Solid Food

by Sarah
(Boston, England)

I have a phobia about choking on solid food. I have had this phobia on and off for about the last 15 years and it has come and gone in phases.

This current phase of it started back in April 1999, when I was eating with a friend in McDonalds when I got halfway through a burger and suddenly became aware that I could choke on it. Consequently, I did'nt eat the rest of the burger and I felt very conscious of somebody watching me eat.

I have had the phobia constantly ever since. I have kept this phobia very much to myself and have mentioned it to very few people. My late partner knew about it and so did my ex-married boyfriend, but neither were particularly understanding or sympathetic towards my problem.

Over the years I have solved the problem of eating in public by drinking alcohol before the meal. If I have some prior warning that I am going for a meal with somebody, I will prepare for this by buying a small, 25cl bottle of wine and carrying it secretly in my handbag.

I will then make an excuse to go to the toilet, then drink the small bottle of wine in the toilet, give it a couple of minutes to take effect, then go out into the restaurant and find that I am just relaxed enough to get through the meal. The meal will often involve drinking another glass of wine with the meal, which then makes me even more relaxed, so that I am able to get through the meal and nobody is aware that I have a problem. I have been living my life this way for the past 9 years.

If I am eating my lunch at home, I manage to get through it by regurgitating small amounts of food back onto my finger, which sounds disgusting although I do it very discreetly.

This is because I am very keen to put the food in my mouth as I am so hungry, but often find that once the food is in my mouth, the mouthful is too big for me to swallow so I panic and have to get rid of some of it, to make a smaller mouthful so that I am able to swallow it and even then it still takes me a long time to swallow it.

Sometimes, if I'm having a really bad day (and it does vary a lot from day to day), I will have a massive panic and regurgitate quite a lot of food into my hand, but I would rather do that than choke to death, as disgusting as it may sound.

Obviously, this behaviour is socially unacceptable, so that's why I use alcohol when I am eating in public, because I don't regurgitate so much when I've had some alcohol (or not so as you would notice).

There are certain foods that I am better with than others. For example, anything thats crunchy like salad and crisps because I can crunch them up small in my mouth, so it is easy to swallow. I am also pretty OK with chocolate because it melts in your mouth and breakfast cereal as again, its crunchy and easy to eat.

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