Medical Specialty >> Gastroenterology

Doctors Lounge - Gastroenterology Answers

Back to Gastroenterology Answers List

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Doctors Lounge ( does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Please read our 'Terms and Conditions of Use' carefully before using this site.

Date of last update: 10/15/2017.

Forum Name: Gastroenterology Topics

Question: Gag reflex in everyday situations

 scottintexas - Thu Dec 18, 2003 3:38 pm

This is a problem I have had off and on since maybe the 3rd grade. I am constantly holding back the urge to gag, and if continued eventually vomit. I would compare the feeling to being on a big date and not being able to eat without feeling sick. Most of the times when it gets stronger I can control the problem by keeping a piece of candy in my mouth. Sharp flavours seem to distract it... but i have to use them sparingly because they will quickly lose their effect. It is worst in stressful situations like giving a speech.

I have had a biopsy to determine that nothing is physically wrong with my throat which makes me believe that it's mental. If I don't think about it, it won't be a problem. But it's hard to not think about it when I'm constantly trying to avoid gagging in front of friends, family, and even my boss. By speaking in short sentences and using candy I have been able to keep the problem unnoticable, but on many occasions it's come very close.

Is there a way to make myself forget about the problem and thus never have it again? Or could it be more than that? I would appreciate any feedback. Thanks.
 Dr. Russell M - Fri Dec 19, 2003 10:26 pm

User avatar Hi!

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be one possibility. Do you have acidity symptoms, heartburns, burning sensations in the stomach, acid reflux? Do you smoke? Do you drink alcoholic beverages? Do you have spicy food often? Have you ever been tested for the bug helicobacterium pylori? These would be some of the questions I would explore.

Your doctor might want to try you on a prokinetic drug if the problem goes out of hand. And if mind is over matter, it shouldn't matter!

Warm regards,

 scottintexas - Sun Dec 21, 2003 1:15 pm

Thanks for your reply. I don't really have acidity symptoms but do drink alcohol and enjoy the heck out of a good salsa. Still, I tried taking some antacids and even propped the head of my bed up last night after reading that that may help prevebnt (GERD). This morning it seems about the same though. If it is in fact mind over matter.. any suggestions or referrals?

 Dr. Russell M - Fri Jan 02, 2004 11:40 am

User avatar Hi!

Have you visited your PCP? What is your doctor's opinion as to your problems?

 scottintexas - Fri Jan 02, 2004 1:38 pm

my doctor wasn't sure and was leaning towards anxiety medication.
 Dr. Russell M - Fri Jan 02, 2004 7:06 pm

User avatar And has the medications helped you?
 scottintexas - Thu Jan 08, 2004 4:38 pm

My doctor said that if the biopsy came back negative, then he would probably prescribe anxiety medication. But I haven't been back since the biopsy. I don't want to jump into anxiety medication unless we're sure it's going to work.
 Dr. Russell M - Thu Jan 08, 2004 5:39 pm

User avatar Most of the medicines do not guarantee cure. Mostly it would be a trial and error methodology for treatment, where only statistical significance help decide on what medicines to use. From which part of your body was the biopsy taken?
 scottintexas - Thu Jan 08, 2004 9:59 pm

the biopsy went up my nose and down my throat. They had me count to ten several times during which I started gagging mildly. I said "this is my problem" and they suggested looking into some kind of speech therapy to help me sound out the numbers properly.
 Dr. Russell M - Thu Jan 08, 2004 11:58 pm

User avatar Hi!

By biopsy we mean the taking out of tissue from the place of probable pathology. Was tissue cut out from your throat?
 scottintexas - Fri Jan 09, 2004 10:17 am

whoops, sorry about that.... for some reason i thought that a biopsy was sticking a tiny camera in a tube inside you, which is what they did - through my nose down my throat. No tissue was removed.
 nickzed - Thu Sep 01, 2005 8:51 pm

i have the exact same problem as specified. it happens off and on and has for several years. as far as i can tell its all mental, i've gone to doctors and have been told it could be post nasal drip but i really doubt that. certain things really help, for instance sucking on candy, chewing gum(sometimes this makes it worse) drinking thick liquids, talking, or just not thinking about it.

it is a hundred times worse in stressful situations, and doesnt really affect my appetite as i will be really hungry, but when i go to eat sometimes the feeling will come back and it makes it difficult unless i eat slowly.

i have never gagged, or thrown up from it, however it always gets very very close, and the feeling is unbarable sometimes.
 desparatelady - Mon Sep 05, 2005 7:38 am

In a way i was relieved to read the other posts. Im 33 years old and suffered chronic anxiety since i was around 4/5 years old. I have emetephobia ( fear of vomiting and everything associated with it).
As my life has progressed, ive attached more and more fear to my phobia as virtually everything i can do in life is associated with it. Ie, once i panicked and was nearly sick in a supermarket on holiday. Now, holidasy and supermarkets are terrifying for me incase it happens again. So over the past 30 years Ive managed to attach everything to my fear so that now i fear almost every situation.going in cars, on trains, shopping,sleeping , eating. its a living hell as I would rather die than be sick or gag, but i get massive flashbacks to the times when i was in these situations and i cant handle it.
But recently, I was in London when we had the terrorist bombings.They day after, there was a security alert in the hotel that i was staying at we were all evacuated from my building at 4am in the morning. the panic of everyone running down the escape exit was horendous. I was on the 12th floor. I was terrified, everyone was. Everyone was fearing the worst.When we got to the bottom of the exit some people were sick as a result of the fear.
I got so terrified that i also started gagging, but wasnt sick. This was one of my worst realisations as not only did i have to gag, i had to do it in public.

So since July i am now fearful of gagging all the time and thats what i feel like day in day out. anything can set it off. But as someone else mentioned on this post, sucking hard sweets or mints can get me out of a feeling.

If im ever doing speeches or presentations, the only thing that has successfully eliminated these feelings is valium ( just 2mg). However, as with anxiety, im just treating the symptoms not the cause.

I got utterly desparate and the constant gagging feeling / nausea is destroying my quality of life. I can cope with being a 'worrier'. I cant cope with gagging in public !!! So now im taking some anti depressents that also help with anxiety. Ive only been on them 2 weeks, but have noticed some results, and at last, i can sleep and i don't wake with that nasty feeling.
Im a firm believer that ive almost trained myself to do this, im bringing all the anxiety on by myself, but i just don't know how to undo the damage ive done. Im hoping these tablets will help me 'reset 'my body, and get me to a position where i can get in to a new routine of living happily. Im doing breathing excercise, and trying to keep busy as much as i can.
thinking about these things just makes it worse and worse.
 JN - Mon Nov 07, 2005 4:35 pm

scottintexas, did you find anything that helps this or get a diagnosis? I have the EXACT same problem as you do and its driving me crazy.
 karategirl - Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:30 pm

despratelady,i I suffer from emetophobia aswell i would rather die than be sick or gag.mI addicted to gravol and im affraid to be in public when i don't feel good. I see a phycologist but she doesent help. im only 13
 bayou2929 - Thu Dec 08, 2005 12:56 am

User avatar my mother is 76 years old and has late stage moderate Alzheimer's. she gags quite often, too. this always leads to vomiting. it is usually phlegm and/or clear. she eventually gags until whatever food she has eaten comes back up. but hers is not emotional or anything. we give her nothing spicy and no alcohol. i ask her about it, but she is not able to effectively communicate her condition. i want to take her to the doctor, but i don't know what to tell them to test for. i've been giving her pills with Diphenhydramine at night to sleep since her sense time is none existent. could this be making her get congested and gag the next day? i need help. i keep changing her diet because i thought it was a food allergy. we gave her zantac for a couple of days and that didn't help at all. she eats mints constantly.

please give any advice or something we can tell her doctor to look for.
 rybakgirl - Thu Dec 08, 2005 10:03 am

I cannot believe what I am reading, I have this problem with vomiting too!!!! I also have OCD and have been on meds for 5 years and it has really helped alot. I thought I was crazy, I didn't know that such a phobia existed!!! You have all given me hope. The meds I take control it alot but I still have moments, what I try to do if I am in a public place and I feel ill is distract myself so I am not thinking about it. I do things like talk to strangers in the store, start reading a magazine or if it is really bad I leave. I don't let it keep me from going places, otherwise I would never leave my home. The other thing is self talk, I tell myself that I am fine and nothing is wrong with me and that helps. I will talk to myself the entire way to the store or whereever I am going and by the time I arrive I am fine.

Thanks folks!!!

| Check a doctor's response to similar questions

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

  • Ask a Doctor Teams: Respond to patient questions and discuss challenging presentations with other members.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us