Phagophobia (Fear of Swallowing)

Phagophobia is the Fear of Swallowing and can cause significant anxiety and stress for those who suffer from it.

The fear of Swallowing may be the result of negative experiences in the past or it may have been learnt from a parent or caregiver during earlier developmental years.

The unique meanings that people attribute to life experiences depends on a wide range of psychological, socio-economic and cultural beliefs each influencing the types of coping strategies that people develop.

There is no scientific evidence that Phagophobia is the result of any kind of biological fault or chemical imbalance in spite of the traction that these biomedical models of mental illness are given in the media.

On the contrary, Phagophobia is much more likely to be the result of the sufferers subjective evaluation of what happened to them in the past and is therefore a psychosocial phenomenon.

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Phagophobia Symptoms & Behaviours

The symptoms of Phagophobia are very similar to other specific phobias and often include the following feelings or behaviours:

Within the Power Threat Meaning Framework, the symptoms of Phagophobia may be better thought of as threat responses and coping strategies that sufferers adopt in order to cope with the immediate problem.

Unfortunately, when faced a Fear of Swallowing, many people fail to use threat responses that are adaptive and choose behaviours that end up being more harmful to mental health in the longer term.

Despite this paradox, it is important to recognise that nobody deliberately chooses maladaptive coping mechanisms that result in more harm than good.

The reason for this is that at some level, the choice of threat response made complete sense at the time the threat was originally experienced which may have been in childhood when less mental resources were available.

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Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms in Phagophobia

A common problem Phagophobia sufferers have is that their coping strategies may no longer be relevant in the current context or time in which they live.

Unfortunately, human beings have a built in tendency to repeat behaviours that are supposed to provide benefits without questioning whether or not they still make sense.

We call these behaviours habits which require very little conscious activation as they are generally performed automatically at a sub-conscious level.

Habitual coping strategies and threat responses that are no longer coherent in the current context are known as post coherent adaptations and are, invariably, the main cause of the emotional distress being experienced at the present time.

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Psychosocial Therapy for Phagophobia

We offer a range of psychotherapy options for Phagophobia all of which adopt a psychosocial perspective.

Psychosocial therapy sets out to solve your Fear of Swallowing from the point of view of what has happened to you and NOT what is wrong with you.

This approach adopts the British Psychological Society’s Power Threat Meaning Framework which rejects the idea that emotional distress is an illness.

This perspective stands in stark contrast to the biomedical models of mental illness used widely throughout the psychiatric and medical communities.

These psychosocial approaches to Phagophobia are supported by clinical and empirical evidence established over the last 20 years.

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CORE CBT for Phagophobia

The CORE CBT Programme was devised and written by Paul in 2020 and combines all the best elements of CBT.

CORE also incorporates research from Personal Construct Theory, Attribution Theory, Self-Determination Theory and Social Constructivism.

It is particularly well-suited to anxiety related problems like Phagophobia because of the significance of cognitive distortions in the creation of phobic responses.

It is a 10 module course normally taken over a 10 week period with weekly hour long counselling sessions in our offices or online with Zoom.

The CORE programme can also be followed as a teach yourself CBT course for those with more manageable levels of anxiety.

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FREE Initial Consultations

If you’d like to find out more about overcoming or recovering from Phagophobia or the Fear of Swallowing then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular problems and the potential solutions in a safe and confidential environment without you having to commit to any counselling programmes or sessions going forward.

It is our view that not only do you need to decide whether the Lee Psychology approach suits who you are and what you have been through, but also whether or not you feel you will be able to work effectively with us as individuals.

Contact Paul

You can contact Paul on:

07434 776125

or by e-mail at:

Contact Joan

You can contact Joan on:

07434 776504

or by e-mail at:


Hypnotherapist Joan Lee D. Hyp. MIAEBP

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Lee Psychology, Maypole House, Yew Tree Court, Wombourne, South Staffordshire, WV5 9JB.

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