themighty logo

The Physical Symptom of My Anxiety I Have Yet to See in Anyone Else

I used to think that symptoms of anxiety were pretty straightforward before I was diagnosed with it. I thought it was a lot of hyperventilating, the whole Earth spinning, constantly worrying. I’ve experienced a lot of that, as have my friends.

I’ve been through the nausea, gastrointestinal (GI) upsets or “nervous poops” as I call them, skin issues, skin picking, unintentional self-harm (I bite my lips), random dizziness, feeling my heart pound from my hair to my toes. I’ve been through quite a bit.

It wasn’t until I started therapy and began speaking out about my struggles that I found I deal with a very weird symptom; I have yet to meet someone with the same symptom. Sometimes it isn’t there; sometimes I have to separate myself from what is going on to get it under control. The really challenging thing is that it is a physical symptom that can be seen from the outside. There is no hiding it.

When I get overly anxious, I gag. I gag a lot.

Truthfully, I do not know why this happens to me. I have had a gag reflex for as long as I can remember. It is a terrible gag reflex. Dentists get annoyed with me because they can’t do my x-rays without me gagging, nor can they stick any sort of instrument in my mouth either. I can’t buy myself large toothbrush heads, I can’t brush my tongue, and I can’t eat certain foods. I can’t even smell certain smells or feel certain textures without gagging. That has been happening to me since I was young.

Once my anxiety started, I began just randomly gagging whenever I felt anxious and had other symptoms present, like my dizziness or GI upsets. There is literally nothing I can do about it. I will usually just excuse myself if I am in a group and go into the bathroom to do some breathing exercises, which worked when I was a child and needed to get through dental exams.

I have learned that whenever my gagging fits happen, I need to distract myself with something to take myself out of my own mind. Sometimes I will breathe; other things that have worked is just playing games on my phone, petting my dog and/or cat, and even talking to my husband about what I am feeling in that current moment. Getting some fresh air helps too!

I have realized that since starting therapy and being put on a small dose of antidepressant, my anxiety, in general, has slowly started to get better. Either that, or I am just coping better. My gagging episodes are not as common. I have a follow-up soon with my doctor and I think he will be increasing my dose of medication, which I am not opposed to since I don’t think it is working as well as it could be.

I hope to see a day when I won’t gag out of anxiousness. For now, I will keep working hard in my recovery and finding ways to cope with my mental illnesses.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Images photo via Voyagerix