Believe it or not, that lump-in-the-throat sensation you feel before you cry actually has a name. Known as globus pharyngeus, it occurs when your throat muscles constrict, according to BBC Science Focus. More specifically, it’s the pharynx and the muscles around your voice box that tense up. This constriction happens because your body finds itself in fight-or-flight mode. The body enters this state in anticipation of danger, whether the threat is real or not. When in fight-or-flight mode, your heartbeat may accelerate, your breathing quickens, and your eyesight actually improves to make you better equipped to survive (via Cleveland Clinic). Additionally, the body releases adrenaline into the bloodstream, which can prompt muscle constriction in the throat and elsewhere.
It’s your sympathetic nervous system that kicks your fight-or-flight reaction into gear. During this process, one of the messages it delivers to the body is the need for more air. In response, your throat muscles tighten to keep your airway open for longer. This can make swallowing difficult and leave you feeling as if a mass is wedged in your throat.