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Lump In Throat Anxiety: Symptoms & How To Get Rid Of 2023

Luke Sumpter

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

lump in throat anxiety
Anxiety can cause throat muscles to tighten.

Considering we rely on the airways within our throat to breathe, the sensation of a lump in the throat can feel rather alarming. In some cases, a physical obstruction, such as mucus, can cause this uncomfortable feeling. However, other times, it boils down to lump in the throat anxiety, known by the scientific name

Globus sensation. Science defines[1] globus sensation as “an intermittent or constant, non-painful sensation of fullness or lump/foreign body in the throat.”

So, if nothing is physically stuck in the throat, what exactly causes the feeling? Well, if you’ve ever felt this sensation during periods of anxiety, you might have wondered, “Can stress cause a sore throat?” It certainly can. Lump in the throat anxiety often occurs when people hold back emotions[2] and arises when anxiety causes muscles in the throat to tighten.

Can Anxiety Cause Lump In Throat?

Lump in the throat anxiety can be a scary situation caused by muscles involved in swallowing to tighten. This results in symptoms ranging from discomfort to having trouble speaking. Treatments include smoking cessation, reassurance, stress reduction, not clearing your throat too frequently, drinking more water, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and performing exercises specific to the problem.

Lump In The Throat Symptoms

Lump in the throat anxiety has several key physical symptoms. While Globus sensation caused by other factors, such as acid reflux, involves other symptoms, cases caused by the stress response and anxiety alone are characterized by:

Sensation of a lump in the throat: It comes as no surprise that this symptom ranks as the most common when it comes to globus sensation. An anxiety lump in the throat can occur with or without pain. Scientists have pinpointed a specific muscle[3] involved in swallowing as the main culprit. 

Tightness and discomfort in the throat: Physical pain and discomfort can also accompany a lump in throat anxiety in some cases. This feeling of tightness and pressure[4] can result from muscle tension in the throat. Any inflammation in this area can also give rise to the feeling of having a foreign object stuck in the throat. 

Difficulty swallowing: Dysfunction of the throat muscle previously mentioned can cause this structure to become too tight. This muscle acts as a sphincter in the lower esophagus and closes during swallowing, stopping food from going back toward the mouth. When overly tight, it can cause people with Globus sensations to experience trouble swallowing their food and even speaking.

The Connection Between Anxiety And Throat Tension

The exact mechanism behind lump-in-throat anxiety remains unknown. While gastroesophageal reflux disease[1] plays a role in some patients, the condition can also occur due to anxiety alone. The effects of anxiety on the nervous system[5] can induce the fight-or-flight response, which may be linked to increased tension within certain muscles. 

While several anxiety symptoms are psychological, others are somatic — meaning they manifest physically in different areas of the body.

Despite the lack of understanding of the exact cause of the condition, research has found a correlation with anxiety. Studies show a higher prevalence[6] of Globus sensation in people with higher levels of psychological stress, including depression and anxiety. 

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As you can imagine, a lump in the throat feeling of anxiety can be distressing. Even when caused by anxiety, it can cause a vicious cycle. The very feeling of a lump in the throat can go on to cause further globus sensation anxiety.[7] 

How To Get Rid Of The Lump In The Throat Feeling

If you’re experiencing a lump in the throat and feeling anxiety, there are several steps you can take to curb the symptoms. Before we delve into how to relax throat muscles anxiety, we’re going to cover a few simple and easy interventions you can take.

Try To Feel Reassured

Many people with symptoms of anxiety experience a reduction in those symptoms after finding out that the lump they feel in their throat is nothing more than a slightly tight muscle. This realization helps worries of something stuck in there fade away and helps to reduce feelings of anxiety[7] surrounding the sensation. 

Stop Smoking

Stopping smoking,[8] or at least reducing the amount you smoke, will help to reduce feelings of throat soreness and decrease irritation and inflammation of muscles involved in globus sensation anxiety. Ceasing smoking will also benefit your health in many different ways and prevent the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Reduce Stress

Stress can increase Globus sensation,[4] so it makes sense that reducing chronic stress and stress hormones will help you decrease the severity of the condition, and deal with stressful life events. Some proven ways to help tame stress, thus preventing anxiety disorders, include:

• Frequent 10-minute walks.

• Regular exercise.

• Finding something to laugh about.

• Reduce noise in your immediate environment.

• Use positive self-talk.

• Meditate.

• Talk to others about your worries.

Online therapy.

Resist Clearing Your Throat Too Much

The sensation of having something stuck in the throat often causes people to attempt to clear it by coughing and heaving. However, because no foreign object is there in the first place, this just puts extra strain on the already tight muscle.

Drink More Water

Aim to drink around 1.5 liters of water every day. Not only will this prevent you from getting a dry throat, but swallowing throughout the day will help to relax tight throat muscles.

Drink Less Tea, Coffee, And Alcohol

Tea, coffee, and alcohol can cause the throat to dry out. Excess caffeine can also fire up the central nervous system and agitate feelings of anxiety[8] and panic attacks.

Exercises To Relax Your Throat Muscles

You might feel tempted to seek out a long list of natural remedies to tackle lump-in-the-throat anxiety. However, considering a dysfunctional muscle likely lies at the root of the problem, targeted exercises[2] work considerably well to relax the throat. Below, you’ll discover how to relax throat muscles and anxiety and relieve tension with the following exercises:

Neck Stretch

To perform this stretch, simply drop your chin down to your chest and hold it for 10 seconds. Next, drop your ear to your shoulder on one side, keeping your shoulders level, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Try to commit to at least five sets throughout the day.


Sit comfortably and simulate a yawn, breathing deep into your belly. After filling your lungs, let out a deep breath by sighing. It might not seem like a stretch, but this form of deep breathing will use and relax the throat muscle. In addition, practice breathing slowly and mindfully, focusing on your breath going in and out. As well as helping to relax your throat, this exercise doubles up as a meditation that can help to tackle high stress and anxiety.


Pretend you’re chewing a large ball of gum. Move your jaw and tongue vertically as well as side to side. Visualize the ball getting larger and larger until you’re moving your jaw and tongue in a larger range of motion. You’ll feel your upper neck, jaw, tongue, and upper throat muscles stretch and relax afterward.

Tips To Calm Your Anxiety

The stretches above will help the muscular element of a lump in the throat anxiety. However, because the tension arises from the anxiety disorder itself, it’ll help to relax your central nervous system,[9] too, using the following tips for relieving anxiety:

• Exercise.

• Counseling.

• Support groups.

• Adequate sleep.

• Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

• Eat more probiotics and foods rich in B vitamins.

Final Thought

Lump in the throat anxiety, or globus sensation, can initially seem extremely alarming. However, many people notice their physical symptoms reduce after getting a diagnosis and experiencing the reassurance that there’s nothing really stuck in their throat. 

Once your doctor has ruled out other possible contributing factors, that are several things you can do to reduce the sensation. These things include targeting the muscles involved by using simple stretches and attempting to reduce your anxiety disorder by going to talk therapy, getting enough sleep, and consuming a healthy diet.

+ 9 sources

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  1. Uiowa.edu. (2019). Lump In Throat (Throat Fullness, Globus Syndrome, Globus Sensation, Globus Hystericus, Globus Pharyngeus) | Iowa Head and Neck Protocols. [online] Available at: https://medicine.uiowa.edu/iowaprotocols/lump-throat-throat-fullness-globus-syndrome-globus-sensation-globus-hystericus-globus-pharyngeus
  2. Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. (2018). Globus Sensation | Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. [online] Available at: https://www.hey.nhs.uk/patient-leaflet/globus-sensation/
  3. Midcervical Level. (2018). Imaging Anatomy: Ultrasound, [online] pp.118–123. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-323-54800-7.50018-0.
  4. Nhsinform.scot. (2020). Feeling of something in your throat (Globus). [online] Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/feeling-of-something-in-your-throat-globus
  5. Harvard Health. (2020). Recognizing and easing the physical symptoms of anxiety – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/recognizing-and-easing-the-physical-symptoms-of-anxiety
  6. Manabe, N., Tsutsui, H., Kusunoki, H., Hata, J. and Haruma, K. (2014). Pathophysiology and treatment of patients with globus sensation —from the viewpoint of esophageal motility dysfunction—. Journal of Smooth Muscle Research, [online] 50(0), pp.66–77. doi:https://doi.org/10.1540/jsmr.50.66.
  7. Oishi, N., Saito, K., Isogai, Y., Yabe, H., Inagaki, K., Naganishi, H., Kimura, H. and Ogawa, K. (2013). Endoscopic investigation and evaluation of anxiety for the management of globus sensation. Auris Nasus Larynx, [online] 40(2), pp.199–203. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anl.2012.06.001.
  8. Klevebrant, L. and Frick, A. (2022). Effects of caffeine on anxiety and panic attacks in patients with panic disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. General Hospital Psychiatry, [online] 74, pp.22–31. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2021.11.005.
  9. Health (2022). Managing and treating anxiety. [online] Vic.gov.au. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/anxiety-treatment-options
Luke Sumpter

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Luke Sumpter is a writer and health science researcher with 8 years of experience specialising in the areas of health and fitness, nutrition, and musculoskeletal medicine. He holds a First Class Honours Bachelor's Degree in the Clinical Health Sciences and completed a dissertation exploring the emerging role of the endocannabinoid system in musculoskeletal medicine.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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