Anginophobia, also known as fear of choking, is defined as a persistent, unwanted and abnormal fear of choking, angina or chest pain, or feeling of smothering which causes distress and affects quality of life. Angina is a Latin word that means to choke, to suffocate, or to strangle. Most people affected with this disease have a history of heart problems and have experienced chest pain, or have experienced choking. Those with existing or real heart problems might have experienced chest pain or discomfort and associated this to fear or considered as a traumatic event. Some may have family members who became severely ill or died of a heart problem or heart attack thus they fear that something bad will also happen to them. This can be disabling and affects quality of life and functioning.
Symptoms of this disease include symptoms of anxiety including breathlessness and rapid breathing, nausea, palpitations and irregular heartbeat, choking and is sometimes accompanied by high blood pressure. Many of these patients end in the emergency room and on further examination and investigation, most often than not, laboratory tests, echocardiograms and other exams are normal.
Treatment can take time because most sufferers believe that they really have a disease and they do not acknowledge that the chest pain or choking sensation that they are feeling is not real. There are effective prescribed medications that can be given to temporarily relieve anxiety but the best treatment is behavioral therapy wherein one should be reassured and taught that the discomfort they are feeling is not real.