Is Choking the same as Strangulation?


Strangulation occurs when something compresses the neck tightly enough to restrict airflow to the trachea.

Strangling cuts off the flow of oxygen to the brain in one or more ways. Strangulation compresses the carotid artery or jugular veins, resulting in cerebral ischemia. It can also compress the laryngopharynx, larynx, or trachea, causing asphyxia. It can also stimulate the carotid sinus reflex, causing bradycardia, hypotension, or both.

The treatment for strangulation is the immediate removal of the device or object that’s impairing breathing.

Then, call 911.

There are three main types of strangulation:

  • Manual strangulation occurs when one person uses their hands, another extremity, or an object of some sort to block airflow in another person. It sometimes is called throttling.
  • Ligature strangulation, also called garroting, is the wrapping of a pliable object such as a rope, wire, or shoelaces partially or fully around the neck and pulling it tightly across the throat.
  • Hanging is strangulation that occurs when a ligature such as a rope or other pliable object is wrapped around the neck and then used to suspend a person high enough above the ground so that the pull of gravity causes the ligature to tighten. 

Temporary strangulation can lead to a brief high when oxygen rushes back to the brain. Some people abuse self-strangulation to get this rush. While it is referred to as a choking game, it is actually strangulation. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to death.

Some couples also engage in choking during sex play, known as erotic asphyxiation. While many people refer to it as choking, it is actually strangulation. Choking games during sex is dangerous and should only be done with caution.

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