Globus Sensation: Feeling a Lump in Your Throat

Globus sensation is one of the main symptoms of anxiety disorders. Most people with anxiety describe this choking sensation. However, it is just that: a sensation. People with globus sensation are never in any real danger of choking.
Globus Sensation: Feeling a Lump in Your Throat
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 13 October, 2022

Your throat feels tight. It feels like you have something stuck in there. You have difficulty swallowing, and the more you try, the worse it gets. It seems like your throat is closing. You try to stay calm, but the feeling persists. Finally, your anxiety gets the best of you and you start to cry. What you’re experiencing is called globus sensation.

Globus sensation is also known as globus pharyngeus. It’s feeling like you have a lump in your throat. In Globus pharyngeus: an update for general practice, the authors describe how this symptom is often related to psychological issues like anxiety. Individuals with globus sensation always feel like their throats are going to close up and they won’t be able to breathe. While the sensation is very real, it won’t actually keep you from breathing.

Why do people have globus sensation?

Globus sensation is one of the main symptoms of anxiety disorders. Most people with anxiety describe this choking sensation. However, it’s just that: a sensation. People with globus sensation are never in actual danger of choking. In fact, though they might have trouble swallowing, they can drink a glass of water without any issues.

What happens is that the symptoms worsen if you start to believe that you could actually stop breathing. In that case, the choking feeling gets more intense and you might start to panic. That doesn’t mean, however, that being aware of this fact will make it go away quickly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Even if you’ve experienced globus sensation more than once and you know that nothing is going to happen, it can still feel awful. Often people are reduced to tears if the symptoms persist for more than ten to fifteen minutes. If this is something that happens to you on a regular basis, you should seek professional help. Something in your life is making you anxious and you aren’t addressing it.

“Fear sharpens the senses while anxiety paralyzes them.”

-Kurt Goldstein-

A man touching his painful throat.

Characteristics of globus sensation

You probably have a better idea now of what globus sensation is and how it relates to anxiety. However, there are certain characteristics of this problem that we should mention:

  • It happens when you’re feeling calm. Globus sensation doesn’t come up in moments of intense anxiety or tension. Instead, it happens when everything is calm. That is because everything that’s making you anxious builds up. This makes it hard to identify the problem.
  • The sensation makes it hard to talk. Even though you aren’t going to choke, the sensation is caused by tension in the throat. This tension makes it hard to talk, like when you have a sore throat.
A woman experiencing anxiety.

Ignoring anxiety symptoms

If you’ve ever suffered from globus sensation, you’ve probably ended up in the emergency room. What often happens there is that they examine you and tell you there’s nothing blocking your throat. Basically, they say that nothing is wrong. They give you a pill and send you home. But that doesn’t solve anything.

Ignoring your anxiety symptoms can have serious consequences. One is that you won’t find out what’s really causing them. Anxiety is a warning sign that’s urging you to stop and notice that something is wrong. But if you ignore it, it won’t go away. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you ignore it, it’ll find other ways to let you know that something isn’t right.

Globus sensation might be the first sign that your anxiety is trying to tell you something. If you don’t listen, it might turn into depersonalization, somatization, tightness in your chest, or facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), among other things.

The best thing to do is seek professional help so you can address your anxiety and figure out what’s causing it. After all, globus sensation can strike at any time. You won’t get any kind of warning to announce its arrival. You won’t have time to prepare. It happens that way so that you’ll realize that it’s something that needs your immediate attention.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Corso, M. J., Pursnani, K. G., Mohiuddin, M. A., Gideon, R. M., Castell, J. A., Katzka, D. A., … & Castell, D. O. (1998). Globus sensation is associated with hypertensive upper esophageal sphincter but not with gastroesophageal reflux. Digestive diseases and sciences43(7), 1513-1517.
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  • Lee, B. E., & Kim, G. H. (2012). Globus pharyngeus: a review of its etiology, diagnosis and treatment. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG18(20), 2462.
  • Quesada, J. L., Lorente, J., Homs, I., López, D., & Quesada, P. (2003). Pharyngeal globe and pharyngo-laryngeal reflux. Acta Otorrinolaringologica Espanola54(7), 495-498.
  • Wilson, J. A., Heading, R. C., Maran, A. G. D., Pryde, A., Piris, J., & Allan, P. L. (1987). Globus sensation is not due to gastro‐oesophageal reflux. Clinical Otolaryngology & Allied Sciences12(4), 271-275.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.