Pnigophobia: Fear of Choking or Being Smothered

  • Time to read: 8 min.

As an affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Also, this site cannot and does not contain medical/health advice. The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. See our disclaimers page for more information.

Choking and suffocating are two of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person. For some, the fear of being choked or smothered is so great that it becomes a paralyzing phobia. This is known as pnigophobia, which is defined as a fear of choking or being smothered. While this may seem like a rare phobia to have, many people suffer from this condition. In fact, it is estimated that about 1-2% of the population has some level of pnigophobia.

But what exactly causes this fear? And how do you cope with it if you have it? These are important questions that people who suffer from pnigophobia may be trying to answer. In this article, we will take a closer look at what pnigophobia is, what causes it, and how it can be treated.

What is Pnigophobia?

Pnigophobia, or the fear of choking, is a surprisingly common phobia that impacts millions of people around the world. This debilitating condition causes intense feelings of anxiety and panic any time someone is confronted with the possibility of choking on food or an object. Although the specific causes of this disorder are still not fully understood, research suggests that it may be the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

What are the Symptoms of Pnigophobia?

Symptoms of Pnigophobia

Pnigophobia, or the fear of choking, can manifest in many different ways. For some sufferers, pnigophobia may cause mild anxiety and discomfort, while others may experience panic attacks or even a full-blown phobia.

Some common symptoms of pnigophobia include:

  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • increased heart rate

In addition to physical symptoms, many people with pnigophobia also report experiencing various worries or anxieties related to choking. For instance, they may be afraid of actually choking on food or something else in their environment, or they may be worried about having an accident that causes something to get lodged in their throat.

Whatever the case may be, it is important for those struggling with pnigophobia to seek professional treatment to manage their symptoms effectively.

What Causes Pnigophobia?

Pnigophobia, or the fear of choking or being smothered, results from a number of different factors.

Some people may have had negative or traumatic experiences in their past that contribute to this fear. For example, a person who has had an episode of choking or struggling for breath may develop pnigophobia as a result. Others may simply be predisposed to having anxiety and panic disorders, which can make them more susceptible to developing phobias.

Beyond these factors, many people are influenced by the cultural and media messages they receive about choking or smothering. The sensationalized murder mysteries and horror movies that are so popular today can reinforce the idea that being choked or smothered is dangerous, leading some people to develop a pathological fear of these situations.

Ultimately, there is no single cause of pnigophobia; instead, it stems from a complex interplay between external influences and an individual’s specific vulnerabilities. However, treatment options like psychotherapy and exposure-based therapy can often help individuals overcome their fears.

Treatment for Pnigophobia

Treatment for Pnigophobia

If you are struggling with the fear of choking or being smothered, then you may be feeling overwhelmed and confused about how to deal with your symptoms. There is no single “cure” for this condition since it stems from a variety of underlying causes, including anxiety, past trauma, and genetic predisposition.

However, several treatment options can help to reduce your feelings of anxiety, manage your symptoms on a day-to-day basis, and ultimately reduce the impact that this phobia has on your life.


One common approach is to use therapy as a way to work through the underlying causes of your fear and develop effective coping strategies for dealing with future triggers. This type of therapy might involve cognitive behavioral therapy to gradually face feared stimuli and gradually desensitize yourself to them, or it might involve psychotherapy that explores issues from your past in order to help alleviate symptoms.

Other possible treatment options include medication management from a psychiatrist or participation in group support programs such as CBT-I, which helps to treat insomnia caused by fears of suffocation while sleeping.

Ultimately, the right treatment will depend on your unique situation and needs as an individual. But by working closely with an experienced medical professional, you can find the right path to overcome your fears and regain control of your life.


While therapy is often considered the best treatment option for phobias, several different types of medication can be used to help manage symptoms.

For instance, certain medications such as benzodiazepines can be prescribed to help reduce feelings of anxiety, while others such as beta-blockers may be used to help control the physical symptoms of a panic attack.

These medications can be helpful in the short term, but they are not typically considered a long-term solution due to the potential for addiction and other side effects.

Exposure-Based Therapy

Another common treatment approach for phobias like pnigophobia is to use exposure-based therapy. This type of therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to the things you fear in a controlled and safe environment. For example, if you are afraid of choking, your therapist might have you eat small pieces of food while they monitor you closely to ensure that you do not have a negative reaction.

Over time, as you become more comfortable with the feared stimulus, you will be able to work up to larger pieces of food and eventually be able to eat without fear or anxiety. This type of therapy can be done in person with a therapist or online through a self-help program.

Self-Help Strategies

In addition to seeking professional help, there are also several things you can do on your own to help manage your fear of choking or being smothered. For instance, it can be helpful to educate yourself about the condition and understand more about what causes it.

Additionally, practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga can help you to cope with painful emotions and regain control of your thoughts. You may also find that journaling, spending time outdoors, or engaging in other activities that you enjoy can help to reduce your feelings of anxiety and improve your overall mood.

Daily Coping Mechanisms for Pnigophobia

Daily Coping Mechanisms for Pnigophobia

For people who suffer from pnigophobia, or the fear of choking or being smothered, every day can be a struggle. Because this type of anxiety disorder is often triggered by everyday events like eating food or getting in tight spaces, it’s not uncommon for a person with pnigophobia to avoid these situations entirely.

However, avoiding your triggers is often not enough to control the mental and physical symptoms of pngiophobia. To cope with the condition daily, it’s important to engage in healthy habits that keep your mind and body relaxed. Some strategies that can help you manage your fear might include:


Writing about your experiences with this phobia can help you to better understand your triggers and how to avoid them. It can also be a cathartic way to release your fears and anxiety.


Engaging in a regular yoga practice can help to improve your mental and physical well-being. Yoga can help to reduce stress, improve flexibility, and increase strength and endurance.

Breathing Exercises

When you’re feeling anxious or panicked, deep breathing can help to slow your heart rate and calm your mind. Try inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth to regain control of your body and mind.

Avoiding Caffeine and Alcohol

While these substances may seem like quick fixes for anxiety, they can make your symptoms worse in the long run. Caffeine and alcohol are both stimulants that can increase feelings of anxiety and make it difficult to relax.

Staying Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help to keep your body and mind hydrated and functioning at their best. Aim to drink eight glasses of water per day to keep your symptoms from becoming worse.

Talking to Supportive Friends and Family

Finally, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to suffer alone. Talking to others about your phobia can help you to feel less isolated and misunderstood. Strong relationships with supportive friends and family members can also provide the emotional support you need to work through your fears.

Overall, by taking steps each day to manage your fears and stay calm in stressful situations, you can go about your life more confidently despite pngiophobia. With a little effort and commitment, you’ll be able to enjoy all of life’s adventures without letting this anxiety disorder hold

Phobias Similar to Pnigophobia

Several phobias share similarities with pnigophobia, the fear of choking or being smothered. One of these is claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces. This can include things like elevators, small rooms, or even crowded spaces. Like pnigophobia, claustrophobia can be triggered by a fear of not being able to breathe.

Another similar phobia is agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces. This can include things like large crowds, public places, or even open areas like fields or forests. Like pnigophobia, agoraphobia can be triggered by a fear of not being able to escape if something goes wrong.

Taphephobia, or the fear of being buried alive, is another phobia that shares similarities with pnigophobia. This fear can be triggered by situations like being trapped under rubble after a natural disaster or getting stuck in a small space, like being buried in the sand at the beach.

Finally, there’s haphephobia, which is the fear of being touched. This can include things like hugs, handshakes, or even being brushed up against in a crowd. Like pnigophobia, haphephobia can be triggered by a fear of not being able to escape if someone gets too close.

While these phobias may seem quite different at first glance, they all share a common root: a fear of not being able to escape or get away from something. If you suffer from any of these phobias, you may find that the strategies for managing pnigophobia can also help you to cope with your other fears.


If you’re struggling with pnigophobia, also known as the fear of choking or being smothered, there are many things you can do to manage your symptoms and stay calm in stressful situations. Some useful strategies include engaging in regular exercise, drinking plenty of water, journaling, and talking to supportive friends and family members. By taking steps each day to manage your anxiety, you can live a more confident and fulfilling life despite your phobia.