Few people realize how many ways anxiety affects the body. One anxiety symptom that affects millions of those with anxiety is excessive mucus. The mucus is usually in the back of your throat (although may be in your nose) and results in feeling as though you need to hack or cough in order to remove it.
Mucus buildup isn't dangerous, but it is irritating. It can cause you to feel like you're gagging or make breathing seem more difficult.
Is Your Mucus From Anxiety?
Anxiety is not the only cause of excessive mucus. Talk to your doctor to make sure your mucus is not caused by allergies or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Also, fill out my anxiety test to see if your extra mucus is likely to be a part of your anxiety symptoms, and to determine your anxiety severity score.
Anxiety - Does it Cause Mucus?
Anxiety absolutely causes mucus. However, it should be noted that anxiety also increases the likelihood of developing excess mucus when you already have physical problems that create mucus in the first place, such as smoking, GERD, allergies, and more.
Mucus also rarely comes alone. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to see how much your symptoms match up with a disorder, and get additional recommendations for treatment. Until you talk to your doctor, it will be difficult to know the exact reason that you suffer from excess mucus. However, there are several possibilities, including:
- Hyperventilation Those that get extra mucus when they have anxiety attacks may be hyperventilating. Hyperventilation causes two issues that lead to a feeling of extra mucus. First, mucus generation is one of the symptoms of hyperventilation. Second, hyperventilation tends to constrict the airways, making the mucus already in your throat feel worse.
- Allergy Exacerbation Anxiety is also stress, and stress is known to upset allergies. Stress affects your immune system, and when your immune system isn't working properly, your allergies tend to get worse than they would without stress. If you already have mild post-nasal drop, more mucus is common. Anxiety may also affect sleep quality, and poor sleep is another factor that can cause worse allergies.
- GERD Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a fairly common, generally harmless disease that is more commonly known as either "acid reflux" or "heartburn." GERD contributes to mucus in the throat, and while GERD isn't generally thought to be caused by anxiety, many believe that stress makes GERD symptoms worse.
- Coughing Coughing itself is a common habit of those with anxiety attacks, and when you cough too often, you can actually create excess mucus as your body tries to soothe your throat and prevent more damage.
- Dehydration Finally, many of those with anxiety are chronically dehydrated, because anxiety has a tendency to reduce thirst. Dehydration may also lead to mucus buildup. Those with anxiety are highly recommended to drink lots of water, in order to reduce many of these symptoms.
All forms of stress may also simply lead to excess mucus, so anxiety itself may cause or contribute to mucosal symptoms. Only a doctor can tell you exactly why your mucus is occurring, but the above list are the most common reasons.
How to Reduce Excess Mucus
Preventing or removing excess mucus is a bit tricky. Even though it may be irritating, mucus does serve a very important and very valuable purpose in your body. Your body may also compensate if it thinks it's not making enough mucus, so even if there was something you could take to remove mucus altogether, chances are it would come back even stronger in order to make sure your body has the protection it thinks it needs. The best thing to do is try the following:
- Drink Water Since so many people with anxiety are dehydrated, drinking water should be your first step. It won't remove the phlegm right away, but it should drastically cut down on its creation.
- Drink Hot Teas A hot tea - especially one with herbal remedies for throat health - is one of the best things you can do to remove mucus. Hot teas are naturally soothing to your throat, and the act of drinking tea can be calming to your anxiety.
- Breathe Slower You should also try to regain control of your breathing. Breathe slower, so that you're able to stop hyperventilating. Once you stop hyperventilating, you should notice some of the mucus start to go away.
- Gargle Warm Salt Water This is a basic remedy for getting rid of mucus that has nothing to do with anxiety, but it's still effective. Some warm salt water gargling should clear up some of that mucus without coughing, and soothe your throat in a way that makes breathing easier.
Some people find that breathing through their mouth more can be beneficial, since it dries the mucus and the feeling of wetness that affects the throat. But be warned - if you suffer from anxiety attacks, throat breathing can cause hyperventilation in some people. It may not be the best strategy until you've learned how to control your response to hyperventilation.
You should talk to your doctor about allergies or GERD, because these may be something you need to treat in order to reduce the likelihood of developing mucus. Otherwise, you'll need to learn how to control your anxiety if you want the mucus to stop.
I've partnered with many people suffering from intense excess mucus. I recommend starting at my free anxiety test. The test is specifically designed to calculate the effects of your symptoms and provide a recommended solution.
Stevenson, Ian P., and Harold G. Wolff. Life situations, emotions, and bronchial mucus. Psychosomatic medicine 11.4 (1949): 223-227.
Gauss, Harry. Present trends in mucous colitis. American Journal of Digestive Diseases 13.7 (1946): 213-220.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.