How Can I Stop Gagging?

Question

Asked by Jacob

How Can I Stop Gagging?

My "full-blown" panic attacks involve gagging and dry-heaving. When I start to get nervous, I can tell it's about to happen (a panic attack) and I start gagging uncontrollably. How do I calm myself down and eliminate the gagging reflex?

Answer

Hi Jacob,

Gagging and dry heaving aren't the most common symptoms that I've seen over the past 18 years, but I do see people on occasion who have them. Some of my gaggers started off with a lot of heavy sighing and/or excessive yawning, which are forms of overbreathing that can lead to hyperventilation. As they would get more anxious, the yawning would turn to gagging.

First, you need to get as much knowledge as you can about what a panic attack is from a physiological perspective, so you can understand why your body is reacting the way it is.

Start by reading Dr. Walcutt's excellent SharePost on Knowledge is Power: What is Happening in my Body? Follow that by my SharePost, Understanding the Vicious Cycle of Panic. With a good understanding of how panic works, you can start to learn abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Then you can move on to trying to figure out what is triggering your anxiety in the first place (Triggers I & Triggers II).

I'm not suggesting that these posts will solve your problem, it's just to get you started down the right path. You may want to get some Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You can find a therapist at the ADAA website or the Psychology Today website.

Best Wishes,

Jennifer L. Fee, Psy.D., Psychologist

The Stress Masters

Answered by Jennifer L. Fee, Psy.D.