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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Tight Throat and Anxiety

05/02/2007

Question:

Last September I had a what was diagnosed as a couple of panic attacks in a week`s span (ER 2X...heart attack and stroke ruled out). I was prescribed Xanax which I take only when I am severly stressed and it helps. Since January I have had a nearly constant feeling of tightness or constriction in my throat. When it gets unbearable I take Xanax and it lessens the discomfort. I was going to ask my primary care doctor to refer me for more tests but I am feeling like I have become a hypocondriac. Is almost constant throat tightness a symptom of anxiety? I usually don`t feel stressed when this occurs unless it`s severe and then the tightness is what stresses me.

Answer:

Many physical symptoms accompany anxiety disorders, including chest pain and tightness, headaches, stomach aches, tremors, weakness, and yes, feelings of throat tightness and difficulty swallowing.

Xanax (or alprazolam) is an anti-anxiety medicine that is used to treat acute symptoms of anxiety.  It does NOT treat the underlying cause of anxiety, which is felt to be due to neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain.  These chemicals in the brain allow brain cells to "talk" to each other, and imbalances are associated with depression and anxiety. 

Treatment of anxiety is usually with medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and counseling (especially cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT).  Both medications and counseling have good success in treating anxiety disorders, but the best results have been found in studies that use both treatments together.

Xanax should rarely be used for long periods of time.  Unlike the SSRIs, people can become addicted to Xanax.  I would encourage you to return to your doctor or to a mental health professional to discuss treatment of your anxiety disorder.

Good Luck.

Related Resources:

anxiety disorders of america
NIH NIMH anxiety

For more information:

Go to the Anxiety and Stress Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati